His Excellency The President of the Republic of Malawi Dr Lazarus Chakwera
The British High Commissioner Mr David Deer
US Ambassador HE David Young
European Union (EU) Ambassador HE Rune Skinnebach
Dr Phillip Murray – President International Assemblies of God Fellowship
7th June 2022
Having opposed by word and deed the dictatorship of Dr Banda and the Malawi Congress Party, it did not come easily to me to support the very party which my colleagues and I had labelled as the ‘party of darkness and death’ during the struggle for multi-party democracy.
However, after decades of its ‘constructive’ opposition in parliament, I felt convinced that, if elected to government, the MCP would bring an end to the widespread corruption engulfing government and public sector procurement, the nepotist, tribalist and regionalist appointments in government and the public sector; and address the ever-increasing cost of living placing more Malawians under the poverty line with a majority struggling barely to survive.
So, I wrote to you, before the rerun election, to say that, though I had been non-partisan since after the multi-party election in 1994, in the next election I would support the MCP. Excellency, you responded graciously, saying that you knew me as a patriot and nationalist. Later, when at your request we met in Manchester, in what extended into a five-hour discussion, you repeatedly reiterated that fighting corruption was the greatest challenge our country faced, promising that as President you would ensure that not only would corruption be wiped out but that the corrupt would be prosecuted and corruptly acquired assets would be recovered.
After your election as President, for well over two years I remained a silent observer as corruption reached unparalleled levels, the economy reduced to limping from day to day, and Malawians were subjected to increasing nepotism, tribalism, regionalism – now hallmarks of your government. In true conscience I could not remain silent, for as a veteran of the struggle for multi-party democracy with Chakufwa Chihana and other colleagues, who delivered democracy to Malawi, I have an unapologetic right to protect our hard-won democracy. And so, I resorted to the WhatsApp group Hardtalk of which you are a member, to express my concerns.
Now I write this open letter to you focused on corruption because I am convinced that your commitment to fight corruption is akin to that of a false prophet. For, whilst you articulately and loudly proclaim your support for the Director-General, Martha Chizuma, and the institution which she heads, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the reality is that not only do officials in your government impede investigations and prosecutions by the ACB, but that the entire government and public sector procurement are being exploited to enrich a few well-placed people.
Let me explain why this damning indictment. For decades donor nations, international lending institutions and fellow Malawians have despaired at the level of corruption in government and public sector procurement, which denies Malawians social and economic development. So, when the UK’s elite crime-fighting agency, the National Crime Agency (NCA), and the ACB jointly carried out synchronised raids in the UK and in Malawi, at the premises of a UK citizen Zuneth Sattar (Sattar), the diplomatic community, aid agencies, international lenders and more importantly Malawians, heralded this as your commitment to fight corruption – indeed a new beginning.
Sattar had been under observation for two years or more, because of the huge amounts of funds being paid to his businesses from Malawi. What is reported is that in the raids which NCA and ACB carried out, records of Sattar’s business transactions were seized. These records include details of bribes which Sattar had allegedly been paying for over 10 years, to members of three consecutive administrations, including yours. It is believed that the NCA proceeded to provide a report to ACB, to assist with its investigations – indeed you referred to this report in your press conference.
Anyone committed to fighting corruption would have considered the co-operation between NCA and ACB to be a godsend in the fight against corruption and the recovery of assets corruptly acquired. Indeed, the media in the UK and Malawi acclaimed the co-operation between the NCA and ACB as a huge step in the fight against corruption. However, what has followed has set back the cause of fighting corruption in Malawi.
For first the Attorney General (AG), incredibly, declared an amnesty for Sattar and all related cases, which upon public outcry was rescinded. Then the AG claimed that the report which the NCA had provided to ACB should procedurally have been provided to the AG, and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) denied consent to the ACB to prosecute Sattar. And on the lame pretext of contractual obligations, the AG authorised a substantial payment to Sattar’s company, though aware that Sattar had been charged in the UK with crimes relating to those very contracts.
The AG, whose conduct has been unprofessional, even suspect, continues to hold office. This further demonstrates a total lack of commitment on your part to supporting ACB in carrying out its work in fighting corruption. For, considering the unprofessional conduct of the AG and DPP, both should have been replaced long since.
Now we see the spectacle of frivolous court cases against Ms Chizuma, protests organised against her, and her being threatened with violence. It is inconceivable that any Malawian loyal to the flag would want to impede the prosecution of Sattar and the recovery of assets corruptly acquired. It begs the question whose interests are being served if not those alleged to have been paid bribes by Sattar. Put simply, Sattar is being protected to protect those who received bribes from Sattar.
In your recent presser, you stated, inter alia, that a ‘British Citizen’ whom you did not name, had appeared in a British court, in a case involving alleged bribes paid, but that no one in Malawi has been charged or convicted in court in Malawi for this. That in effect is tantamount to the President of Malawi telling the British authorities that, as far as Malawi is concerned, Sattar was lawfully awarded the contracts for which his companies have been paid. I can imagine Sattar’s lawyers presenting, as his defence in court, that Sattar’s businesses were paid for legitimate contracts and that therefore Sattar is not guilty.
Let me give you a simple equivalence: say my car is stolen in Malawi, and the police at Beit Bridge make an arrest on suspicion that the driver has stolen the car. The police contact me, to arrange my car’s return, and I say my car has not been stolen. Why then would the police at Beit Bridge continue to hold the driver or return my car to me?
Excellency, sadly your leadership on all matters concerning corruption, not just the NCA and ACB investigations on Sattar, is wholly lacking. What is even more damning is that every aspect of government and public sector procurement now reeks of corruption allegedly involving you and those close to you, including the Chief of Staff State House, Chris Kapondamgaga, and your son, Nick Chakwera.
It has now become a norm for you to meet suppliers at State House and on your visits abroad. Why would you do this, for government and public sector procurement has well laid out procedures and these do not include a requirement for the President to meet suppliers.
In fact, the nightmare of your meeting fuel suppliers at State House and NOCMA’s award of contracts to suppliers, and the facilitation to induce MERA to approve the contracts, is yet to be unveiled in full. However, what compounds the suspicions of alleged corruption in the procurement of fuel, is the meeting you chaired on or around the 2nd April 2022 at State House, which resulted in the renewal of existing contracts, at $4 million + more per month than other bids submitted by reputable suppliers. The question is who benefits from paying the contracted fuel suppliers $48 million + more per annum. Excellency, there are numerous other cases of alleged corruption in government and public sector procurement, but because I want this missive not to be too long, I propose to detail these in another open letter.
Excellency, let me conclude by reminding you that the position of President is one that must at all times unite our nation behind a vision and programme that seek to make tomorrow a better day than today for all. It is a position that requires the trust and respect of Malawians, which you have lost. Regrettably, your election as President of Malawi has in effect set back our hard-won democracy and the fight against corruption, and nepotism and tribalism are firmly entrenched in government and public appointments. Sadly, you have eroded the trust and respect of most Malawians.