Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Martha Chizuma has been on leave following a stern warning from President Lazarus Chakwera last month in the aftermath of a leaked phone conversation.
Chakwera in a televised address on 24 January gave a warning to Chizuma after a recording in which she alleged that she no longer had the support of the President and that a Judge presiding a case involving the ACB had received a bribe.
On that day, Chakwera had initially planned to suspend Chizuma. This is according to an earlier written speech which the State House wrongly sent to the media but which Chakwera did not use.
“As such, pursuant to Section 6(3) of the Corrupt Practices Act, I have placed Ms. Chizuma on immediate suspension pending a review of her conduct by a professional and independent committee that will then present its findings,” reads part of the speech.
But in the speech he read on 24 January, Chakwera said he had been advised by legal minds that Chizuma’s conduct warranted her removal but he had decided not to fire her.
“I have determined that the best thing to do in this instance is to keep a watchful eye on her general conduct of the Bureau’s affairs in order to ensure that there are no other incidents of concern about her fitness for office going forward,” said Chakwera.
Days after Chakwera made the speech, Chizuma told the local media looking for information that she had gone on leave and had no access to files at the ACB.
The leave has led to questions considering Chizuma was appointed in April, 2021 and has not served one year in office in order to be eligible for leave.
There are concerns that Chizuma may have been forced to go on leave.
“We don’t know whether it was forced or voluntary. She was not supposed to go on leave now,” Executive Director for the Church and Society of the Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), Reverend Master Jumbe, told the local media.
Former Attorney General Charles Mhango said the leave could be an indication that Chizuma is now apprehensive about her office.
“The summoning of the DG by the President will also make the DG feel like her office and person occupying it does not enjoy the confidence of the executive anymore,” he said.