Malawi OP-ED Opinions 

Malawi: A Corrupt Judiciary, A Nonethical ACB Boss, and The Rotten Chakwera Administration – All Exposed in A Leaked Tape

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma ready to head ACB

By Cedrick Ngalande

Recently, a deeply disturbing tape was leaked on WhatsApp. In the tape, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Chief Martha Chizuma talks freely with an unknown caller about the affairs of Malawi government and the status of pending high profile corruption cases in Malawi.

On the tape, Chizuma claims that the British have told her that the success of several high-profile cases currently underway only depends on her integrity. The implication here being that the Chakwera administration is so corrupt that the British government cannot trust it to do the right thing.

The caller and Chizuma alluded to some “investigations,” with Chizuma as the subject of interest. Chizuma professes her innocent and says that her critics have left no stone unturned in trying to dig up dirt on her. “They even talked to [my] boyfriends; they have found nothing,” she says.

The tape is damning and calls into question the ethics and integrity of the ABC boss herself.

For instance, the caller and Chizuma briefly talk about a pending case being overseen by her office. The two had discussed the case earlier and agreed upon a certain strategy. They had suspected that a certain court presiding officer by the name of “Thabo” was compromised in some way.

The idea, that an ACB chief could be discussing pending cases in this manner, is astounding.

Chizuma went to proclaim that she knows that the courts are compromised; that on the Friday before a certain court decision, she knew that the judges had been bribed. She claims a certain defendant, who appeared to have been released on bail, is known to have spent US$10 million bribing the court system and others.

And, surprise, surprise! In talking about the corrupt court system, she alludes to the 2020 controversial presidential election case whose ruling nullified the election of Peter Mutharika and allowed a repeat of the election with coalitions, thereby handing Lazarus Chakwera the office. Martha talks as if the courts either had been influenced in some way or had already decided the case before hearing it.

This is the same case that international legal observers described as a judicial coup.

Another damning revelation is that Chizuma disclosed that she had received a threatening call from a person close to the administration who accused her of wanting to bring down the Chakwera government. The caller also warned her that she was about to be fired and all her relatives would suffer.

Not surprisingly, she also talks about how some church leadership including, the Catholic and Pentecostal churches, are emotionally attached to Number 1 and Number 2, a reference to President Chakwera – a former pastor of The Assemblies of God Church – and Vice President Chilima – a staunch Catholic.

Chizuma believes that these churches cannot be relied upon to put pressure on government. But she promises some action coming up this month end, referring to some legal action initiated from her office.

Throughout this conversation, there was a looming third figure, not present in the call. His or her name is “Onjezani.” The caller said that he had been discussing the court cases with Onjezani. Martha herself also revealed that she had been discussing the cases with Onjezani.

This trio – Chizuma, Onjezani and the caller – are/were strategizing to organize some pressure against the government. Onjezani appeared to have promised that she/he would be talking to Bishops and other church leaders to pressure them to speak up about government or write pastoral letters.

In light of this damning audio, the ACB boss is obviously compromised, and one does not see how she continues in that office. Firstly, here is evidence that she discusses important pending court cases with the public.

To qualify the lack of integrity and low character of the individuals with whom Chizuma was discussing the pending cases, one of them recorded Chizuma without her permission and leaked the tape.

Secondly, she has been warned or threatened against pursuing certain cases involving government. She confesses on the tape that, because of these threats, she has decided to remain quiet on certain things.

Thirdly, she has proof that the courts have been bribed and compromised. Yet, again, she is quiet about that.

It is troubling to see the carelessness and immaturity demonstrated by Chizuma in discussing important pending court cases with members of the public. Her inability to come out openly about credible government threats she has received, and her silence on the evidence of corruption by the courts, makes her unfit to hold that office.

This column has called on the government before, and we reiterate now, to get expatriates to lead the ACB for a period of at least two years to set a new tone for the office. Government can ask credible development partners to provide well trained officers to lead the bureau.

The problem with local ACB chiefs is that they are vulnerable to both government and private sector pressure because of their current ties and probable future employment opportunities. An expatriate will not be vulnerable to that.

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