For Immediate Release
A CALL TO STAY ON COURSE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
For the past few weeks, Malawi has been awash with news that the Anti – Corruption Bureau (ACB) in collaboration with the United Kingdom (UK) based National Crime Agency (NCA) raided offices and properties of a Malawi businessman Mr. Zuneth Satter to gather evidence on the allegations that he has been bribing politically connected people in order to get contracts in Malawi.
Following these allegations, the social media has been buzzed with accusations, truths, half-truths and gossip about the matter and to an extent it is becoming difficult what to believe or not. Sadly, it has become a norm where arrests and eminent lists of suspects due for arrests are first discussed on social media and the ACB in some instances, have parried such allegations.
What’s worrying is the fact that several politicians, business associates and individuals have been called names and labeled corrupt, before the graft bursting body has pronounced itself on the same or our courts have concluded matters as brought before it by the competent authorities. The slandering campaign which has targeted the serving political leadership of Malawi and those in previous administrations has been based on rumors rather than facts.
We have noted the sudden mushrooming of informers masquerading as reporters who unfortunately are sharing misleading information including releasing secret information already under investigation thereby undermining the efforts of fighting corruption especially from political party led media teams. Our main worry stems from the violation of basic human rights like being innocent until proven guilty, right to due process of the law, slandering of individuals which has culminated to rightfully undermining all the security sectors of the country as well as failure by the Law enforcement agents, like the Police to apprehend all who are violating the cyber security Laws.
For instance, there are prominent social media activists who have continued to sensationalize the matter which has led to largest slander campaign on the President and members of his Government on one side, and the former Presidents and their political parties on the other side. Furthermore, disregarding the existing laws, the people continue to mention names, name calling and slandering several individuals on the matter. We believe this must be stopped if we are serious of getting to the bottom of the matter.
What are the real issues?
The accusations and allegations being revealed point to a major problem in Malawi which is a weak and corrupt political system which needs to be corrected. If truth be told, it’s not only Mr. Satter who gives donation and makes contribution to political parties, politicians and politically connected individuals but it’s a whole lot of business people and companies that does this.
If we as Malawi are to call donations and contribution to political parties and politically connected a ‘bribe’, then we must make a determination to say at what point does a ‘donation’ becomes a ‘bribe’, or ‘party financing or contribution’ becomes ‘corruption’.
For instance, it is on record that businessman Mr. Ashan Simbi Phiri made a declaration on a national TV that he donated money to politicians and contributed funds and other resources to all major political parties. His company, Khato Civils, is bidding to implement the Salima – Lilongwe Water Project, would it be fair to conclude that the said donations made by Phiri to political parties were bribes to gain favour for his contract?
It is undeniable fact that over the years, major political parties, politicians and other public interest groups like the CSOs, faith based institutions receive funding and support to run their campaigns and programmes from individuals and businesses some of whom are getting government contracts, should we also categorize this as corruption?
Political party financing
The 2019 and 2020 elections saw the most expensive campaigns that Malawi has ever seen. Political parties and politicians spent a fortune. Most of the resources, we can talk for a fact, came from different businesses and individuals of which some gets government contracts.
If Malawi is ready to prosecute any business person making contributions and donations to politicians, political parties and other public interest institutions, we must also be willing to launch an investigation into each and every donation and contribution that the MCP, the DPP, the UTM, the UDF, AFORD and other political parties received. Then we must also zero in on the funding to politicians. As a country we must be clear what constitutes a bribe when people are donating and financing to political parties, politicians and other public interest institutions.
The first step is to build capacity of the Office of the registrar of political parties who shall in turn be tasked to ask all the political parties to account for all donations and contributions they received towards the 2019 and 2020 elections vis a vis juxtapose them with the contracts being awarded in different sectors. We have in Malawi political parties that have vehicles and displaying of wealth from ‘well-wishers’ and we have allowed that to be a normal thing.
The law must change
Moving forward, we would like Parliament to review the Political Parties Act towards making it mandatory for political parties to disclose and publish any donation and contribution above One Million Kwacha. This would be a deterrent to political systemic corruption.
As part of judicial reforms, we once again call for the establishment special courts to try corruption cases. It is our conviction that in order to curb corruption, cases must be dealt with expeditiously.
Call for objectivity
We have noted that certain connected individuals are speaking with authority as it relates to corruption cases. Some of which compels to make us believe that these individuals are privy to classified information from either ACB or other Security agencies.
Some of the people parading the information related to the corruption are well known citizens and social media influencers. To this effect it would be prudent for ACB and state security machinery to subpoena such individuals and groups to come forward with evidence and aide the investigation
As regarding to the cooperation with other countries law enforcement agencies, it is critical that such cooperation must not be used as a measure of carrying out our own investigation in Malawi. The sovereignty of Malawi must at all cost be respected and ensure that we do not compromise the security of the country.
While ACB cooperates with the NCA, as in the case of Sattar, the final decision must be made in the best interest of Malawi as the allegations are related to Malawians and Malawi resources, rest we collapse the country if we can’t carefully handle high level corruption cases of such magnitude.
We demand the de-politicization of the anti-corruption fight by allowing the ACB to independently initiate, investigate, conclude and prosecute cases without pressure and undue political interference from both politicians and foreign governments.
As MaBLEM, we stand ready to support and advocate for fairness and respect for the rule of law where matters of business, growth and human rights are concerned. We shall further be engaging the British Government for them to openly express their interest in the matter, at the same time engaging our own Government to ensure that they safe guard our country and local businesses.
MaBLEM is a national network of all progressive Civil Society Organization pushing for the Black Empowerment Agenda and comprises the academia, Media, Lawyers, Human rights activists, Business gurus, Politicians as well as Indigenous persons among other interested groups. It is chaired by The Malawi Human Rights Consultative Committee- A network of 97 NGO’s and CSOs on Human rights, Governance, Rule of law and Democratic governance with Forum for National Development (FND) as its secretariat.
Robert James Mkwezalamba