President Lazarus Chakwera is yet to fire Chief Mining Director in Malawi’s Ministry of Mining who demanded money and mobile phones from a Chinese miner in exchange for renewing a mining licence.
Leaked recordings have revealed that the government employee Cassius Chiwambo solicited bribes last year for himself, the chairperson of a committee which renews licenses and the then Minister of Mining Bintony Kutsaira.
The Chinese businessperson had bought shares in a Illomba Granite Mine and wanted the licence for the mine to be renewed. There are three recordings which were reportedly recorded by the miner.
In one of the recordings, the miner offers to US$40,000 to Chiwambo, US$200,000 to the minister and US$60,000 to the committee that was reviewing the mine.
He added that the mining company had already drilled two boreholes for the communities surrounding the mine.
The second clip is a three-way communication between Chiwambo, the chairperson of the committee and the Chinese miner.
In the clip, the investor identifies himself as Joi. The chairman and Chiwambo then demand phones which Joi had promised to bring them when coming from China.
Below is part of the transcript compiled by social media commentator Onjezani Kenani:
Chinese investor: Yes, this is Joi.
Chairman: The one who said he was going to buy a phone for me?
Chiwambo: No, July said that when his boss is coming he will bring the phone, but he didn’t bring the phone… Wait! [to the Chinese investor] Where’s the phone for my boss? When July was leaving, he said the boss would bring a phone for me and the Chair. Where are the phones?
Chinese investor: July himself didn’t come, why asking me?
Chiwambo: But he said that you, when coming would bring the phones.
Chinese investor: This small thing like this it’s July do. I just pay money. How can I do this small thing?
Chiwambo [to the Chairman]: Atibweletsera. Pa 27’pa.
Chiwambo [speaking in Chichewa]: Now, he (the Chinese investor) is requesting for our consideration to still renew his licence. I’ve already spoken to the Minister (Kutsaira) and there are terms we have already agreed upon, so my expectation is that it’s still a 50:50 win.
Chairman: We can renew the licence, it’s fine.
Chiwambo: We can do it even now? Because I wanted us to do it even before leaving for Dundee (Scotland) on 27 December, to have the licence renewed, and they should just wait for the day, pay, and then proceed. Because now they have done Corporate Social Responsibility, they have drilled so far two boreholes.
Chinese investor: They’re already done.
In a third audio clip, Chiwambo and the Chinese miner talk about the timeframe for payments and renewal of licence.
Chiwambo: So, the proposal for you, is that you give this money, and what we agreed is that by 10th you pay 50 per cent, the other 50 per cent remains. But we should renew the licence; but you want to find out when we can renew the licence.
Chinese investor: What?
Chiwambo: When? When we can renew the licence, which we can do even before expiry, according to the law. Before it can expire we can renew it. I think we are given about three months to renew it.
Chinese investor: Why so long time?
Chiwambo: We’re free; we can wait until it expires or we can renew…
Chinese investor: Possible you help me December? Next week, next year. If next month please I pay full amount next month no problem.
Chiwambo: OK fine I’ll talk to the Chair. But the problem is that you don’t have the K2 million to give to him and ..
Chinese: You don’t know me, my friend.
Chiwambo: I know you’re a very distinguished man. This is what July told me. And I believe you and I trust you.
According to Kenani, he contacted Chiwambo who confirmed that the Chinese businessperson was the one who recorded the conversations.
Chiwambo claimed that he did not pocket any money and was playing along in order to get information from the Chinese businessperson.
He, however, did not report the information to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and he was also not the one doing the recording.
Said Kenani: “I therefore concluded that Mr Chiwambo’s story is a self-serving lie he came up with as an attempt to clean up his image, after discovering that the audios had leaked. We see him not only talking about the money, but also aggressively pushing the Chinese investor to give him (and the Chairman) mobile phones, again as part of the corrupt practices. In audio clip 3, the way he asks for the K2 million – it’s in a tone that shows frustration that the Chinese man is not coughing up the money.”
President Chakwera at a press conference expressed concern over irregular awarding of mining licences in the country but did not comment on the scandal involving Chiwambo.