Activists believe the arrest of business magnet, Zameer Karim, who gave Malawi President Peter Mutharika a K145 million “bribe”, has been staged “to save the president’s face” so he could be seen as fighting corruption with the country drawing closer to the 2019 elections.
Despite pinning it as a staged act, opposition politicians say the arrest will dent Mutharika’s re-election chances as his name will be dragged in the mud by the case which will remind voters of the shoddy gifts Mutharika has been pocketing from Karim who owns Pioneer Investment.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Karim on Wednesday in relation to the contract issued to his company, Pioneer Investments, in 2015 to supply ration to the Malawi Police Service. He has been arrested along with Commissioner of Police Innocent Botomani, and Senior Superintendent Grant Kachingwe.
A leaked report by the Bureau claimed that Zameer Karim was fraudulently awarded a K2.3 billion contract and that he also used the deal to defraud government of K466 million.
But eagle eyed activists believe the arrest has been staged. The activists made note of the uncertain of what charges the Bureau intended to level against the business juggernaut and his two accomplices.
“Zameer Karim is likely to be charged with one count of theft contrary to Section 271 of the Penal Code, uttering a false document contrary to Section 360 of the Penal Code and acquiring proceeds of crime contrary to Section 42 of of the Financial Crimes Act” read part of the Statement issued by ACB.
Observing the uncertainty and probable charges, one activists said this was unprecedented and it only pointed out to a well orchestrated opera.
“ACB only arrests people when it is certain of what it charge them. But on this one, ACB uses the word unlikely. This is unprecedented. Unheard of. Even the statement is clearly rushed with several typos. One can only infer the arrest was made following some directive outside the Bureau and we all know where that directive can come from.
“After all, this is the same Bureau whose director cleared Mutharika of wrong down when the president pocketed K145 million from Karim. Clearly someone somewhere is pulling the strings” Alex Chimango posted on Facebook.
Like Chimango, another sceptic, Bashir Siyani, described the arrest as “cosmetic” as he draw out the recent donation of 5 brand new cars worthy K85 million that Zameer Karim handed Mutharika.
“Another cosmetic arrest. There is no human being who can allow someone who gave you 5 vehicles and you are still using them to rot in jail whilst you are the president. Save our Court’s time please” he commented on Facebook.
Renowned whistleblower, Gerald Kampanikiza, concurred with other social commentators in describing the arrest as a farce.
“Does their stay at police qualify as an arrest? Ndiye basi tiziti ayi anawamanga…..kenako anatuluka pa bail (so we can all be fooled into saying they were arrested but are now on bail). Chaka chikamatha (When the year draws to an end) you see lots of drama and this one of those. I shouldn’t hear anyone applauding ACB on this drama” he posted on his Facebook, further alleging that “the arrangement was that bail be given to the three individuals instantly today”.
The three were released on bail by the Lilongwe Magistrate Court but are expected to appear before the High Court where the case has been committed to.
“Don’t get too excited because Zameer Karim and his associates spent a few hours talking to the police. It’s an arranged catch-and-release tactic. Nothing will come out of it. Certainly not with a compromised Peter Mutharika as president” seasoned journalist, Idriss Ali Nassah, has also said.
Other commentators were more concerned about the case being credibly tried with the judiciary marred by its own ‘judge-shopping’ scandal.
Politicians from the opposition benches believe the arrest is the beginning of an end for President Mutharika who is seeking re-election in May 2019.
“Every time Zameer Karim goes to court, the electorate will be reminded of the fact that President Mutharika pocketed 5 cars and K145 million in cash which he only returned following immerse pressure from activists and an investigation by the ACB” commented Victor Saka on a post by one of the local media that announced the three had been granted bail.
Mutharika maintains his innocence.
But in its report, ACB recommended that Mutharika should not be arrested because he is the sitting President.