the case has no merit
A legal expert and former senior officer in the Ministry of Justice has challenged the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to free State House Chief of Staff Prince Kapondamgaga and have him reinstated as it was apparent that he is being victimized on an which so far has no merit.
Kapondamgaga was suspended while The Vice-President Saulos Chilima was stripped of his delegated responsibilities after the two along others were mentioned in the ACB report implicating them, among others, that they benefitted from the corrupt activities of businessman Zunneth Sattar.
The allegations were based on court filing by the UK’s National Crime Agency in a case against Sattar. The ACB report, however, indicated that its own estensive investigations revealed that the two were part of the 13 public officials connected to the dubious award of Malawi Government contracts to Sattar.
However, nearly two months since the President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera withheld delegated duties from Chilima and suspended Kapondamgaga based on the ACB report, the duo has neither been questioned nor charged. Commentators have specifically raised issues with Kapondamgaga’s plight arguing that while the vice president is enjoying all the benefits of his office, the Chief of Staff has been stripped off of all benefits and remains the only victim of the whole saga.
With the new revelations that nothing has happened on the matter, the legal expert, speaking on strict condition of anonymity, said “what ACB is doing in Law, means has no case against the Chief of staff and this in legal cycles clearly shows that this case has no merit and lacks locu standi.”
The legal expert hinted that while the ACB cannot be pushed to take swift action on these particular cases, it is only good practice that those accused are given an opportunity to defend themselves in court as soon as possible or else be let ‘free’ until the Bureau is thoroughly done with its investigations and is ready to charge and prosecute.
“Based on the report presented to the President, it is justified to question why there has been no action. We all heard it that these were among those extensively investigated and, therefore, we hoped they would be invited for questioning and charged as soon as possible.
“Of particular interest is the issue of the Chief of Staff. The president said the report did not give much details and this dragging means that the ACB did not have real stuff to implicate him. Now any well meaning law enforcement agency would appreciate that the only way is to stop the victimising him, let him have his job back until ACB is ready,” said the legal expert.
The legal expert, further said President Chakwera could not be blamed as rushing in the decisions he made since he acted based on the ACB report meaning that, if anything it was the ACB which misled the President.
While noting that the bureau had said 13 people were extensively investigated, the President admitted that the report did not provide details of the actual wrongdoing. In fact, Chakwera dubbed the bureau report “substandard”.
Based on the same report, Chakwera fired former Police Inspector General George Kainja and directed Office of the President and Cabinet to act on the then chairperson of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) John-Suzi Banda.
After the report, the ACB has so far arrested Kainja, director of legal services in the Malawi Police Service Mwabi Kalua, Suzi-Banda and Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands Reyneck Matemba, who is also former ACB chief. In the report, the ACB said for these four the NCA filings were clear on the role they played and how the benefitted from the award of the contracts, however, despite the arrests prosecution has not yet started.
Asked why ACB has not moved on the case almost two months after their public naming, ACB Principal Public Relations Officer Egrita Ndala said the two were under investigation after which a decision would be made.
She said: “You are aware that on 24th June 2022 the bureau arrested former Inspector General of Police Dr. George Kainja and Mwabi Kaluba, the legal officer. The prosecution of these matters are awaiting consent from the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions]. The other people you have mentioned are indeed some of the people that we are investigating.”
Asked if the President rushed to suspend Chilima and Kapondamgaga from their responsibilities, given that the ACB does not seem ready to act, presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda, in an interview, agreed with the legal expert stressing that the President’s action was based on the ACB report.
He said: “President Chakwera clearly said that ACB’s independent report to him stated that the officers in question were not merely under the bureau’s investigation, but that the investigation into their conduct was extensive enough and its findings clear enough for the bureau to conclude that the officers were culpable.
“It is, therefore, because the bureau said the officers were not merely under investigation as the case was with others whose culpability the bureau had not yet established that the President made the decisions he did regarding those whose culpability the bureau said it had established.”
Kasunda added that only the bureau is in a position to explain the nature of culpability.
“As it is, both the President and Malawians await the bureau to make known the conclusive findings it said it already had in its possession back in June,” he said.
Kasunda said while the President, like other Malawians, would want swift action on the matter, there is nothing that can be done in the interest of protecting the independence of the bureau.
The ACB is investigating Sattar for corruption, fraud and money laundering related to 16 contracts. According to the ACB’s reports, 52 current and former public officials allegedly received money from Sattar between 2017 and 2021.
The ACB’s probe found that among the 84 individuals, who allegedly received money from Sattar, 13 people “conducted themselves corruptly in dealing with the businessman”.