Chakwera Bites: Benches Chilima, fires IG, suspends others

Chakwera

Largely regarded as 'toothless' since he rose to power two years ago, President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has opted to mark his anniversary by benching his Veep, Saulos Chilima.

He has also fired Inspector General of Police George Kainja and suspended his  Chief of Staff at State Residences Prince Kapondagaga and John Suzi Banda, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) chief. 

This is in reaction to an Anti-Corruption Bureau report that the President ordered at his desk in 21 days from May 31 this year. 

The report was on those said to have colluded with corruption suspect- UK-based business mogul Zuneth Sattar. 

"But, because the mentioning of their names in this report raises public suspicion, it is necessary for me to take measures to protect public trust in those offices," he justified his decisions. 

The move is to pave way for what Chakwera called smooth investigations  void of interference. 

The President said: "I have already instructed the Secretary of the President and Cabinet to do so using the appropriate legal instruments related to statutory bodies; and I have also directed her to work with the relevant service commissions to effect similar measures with respect to the other implicated public servants who do not report to me." 

On Chilima, the President said he differs from the rest by nature of his office according to the law that stipulates that the Vice President holds the office on public trust, and therefore can not be suspended or fired by the President. 

This leaves the President with only withholding his delegating powers from Chilima at least until "the ACB reports otherwise". 

"As such, the best I can do for now, which is what I have decided to do, is to withhold from his office any delegated duties while waiting for the Bureau to substantiate its allegations against him and to make known its course of action in relation to such," he explained. 

Chakwera also casted doubt over the integrity of the Bureau, whose chief Martha Chizuma the President has been backing since her appointment to the role. 

He chided the Bureau for what the President called selective justice in formulating the report and the handling of the same. 

The President argued that the Bureau would not have withheld some names off the list if it truly had evidence that Sattar has been corrupting Government officials since 2008; adding that omission has prevented him from making a detailed report before the nation as he earlier pledged. 

"I find it bizarre for the Bureau to leave out the names of those from the first 12 of the 13 years in which the corruption allegedly happened. 

"That kind of selective justice is a clear signal to those who practiced corruption in the past that the seriousness of their crimes against Malawians are based not on the laws they broke or
the harm they caused to this country, but on the whims of the Bureau, and that has to change," said Chakwera. 

Chilima is on the record to have pledged to let the court take its course on the matter and that he would only comment on the allegations when he is cleared by the same. 

This was his initial reaction to the PIJ published list that also mentioned several Cabinet ministers who are now missing on the ACB report to the President.