Legal experts have faulted Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda for offering a 60-day amnesty to thieves, saying the AG has no legal authority to issue amnesty from criminal prosecution.
Nyirenda yesterday announced the amnesty to allow those who stole money from the government to return the money and possibly escape prosecution.
The amnesty extends to cashgate cases which are currently being prosecuted by Director of Public Prosecutions and to corruption cases being handled by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Danwood Chirwa, a law professor at University of Cape Town in South Africa has described the amnesty as unlawful saying the Attorney General has no legal authority to issue it.
He added that there is no precedence for such an amnesty in Malawi and such a practice won’t start now.
“There can be no justification for such a law, in any case. It would empower the Attorney General to act like God in a democratic state where equality before the law is sacrosanct,” said Chirwa in a Facebook post.
He also suggested that the Attorney General is attempting to usurp the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Director of the ACB.
“The press statement amounts to unlawful interference by the Attorney General with the independence of the DPP and the ACB Director. The DPP and the ACB must continue with their work free from influence,” said Chirwa.
Former Attorney Charles Mhango, in an interview with the local media, has also described the amnesty as illegal.
On his part, social commentator Onjezani Kenani has said the amnesty is solely designed to protect Nyirenda’s “political masters” and not the interests of the poor Malawians whose money was stolen.
Said Kenani: “The amnesty remains stupid and unacceptable. It has no legal basis whatsoever. It is a creature of Mr. Chakaka Nyirenda’s imagination. There is no Malawian law that empowers the Attorney-General to come up with it. We cannot let thieves off the hook just like that.”
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption has said in a statement today that it was not consulted about the amnesty and has only learnt about it on social media.
The Bureau has since started that it will continue to investigate the corruption suspects whom the AG has offered amnesty to.