Ten Civil Society Organisations have given President Lazarus Chakwera until Monday 6th February, 2023 to withdraw the interdiction of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma, saying failure of which, they will mobilise people to demonstrate.
On Tuesday, 31st January government through the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba, interdicted Chizuma, a decision which is said to be in line with the Malawi Public Service Regulations 42(3) as read with Regulation 42 following criminal defamation charges she is facing in court.
Reacting to the development, ten Civil Society Organisations which include; YAS, HRDC, CHRR, CSAT, SOCAT, MHRRC, NGO-GCN, CCSS, Women’s Manifesto Movement and NAP, say the decision to interdict Chizuma is very surprising and not good in the fight against corruption.
Through a joint press statement, these CSOs say the action by government bear semblance of the same legal tactics that were employed when Chizuma was illegitimately and unprocedurally arrested in December, 2022 based on unfounded claims without regard to the relevant laws and human rights principles.
The CSOs further indicated that it is worrisome that issuance of the interdiction letter, coincided with the alleged ACB’s warrant of arrest on some government officials.
According to the organisations, they believe that there is a continuation of systemic and intentional government’s tactics to frustrate any meaningful fight against corruption.
The statement continued by saying that the recent development signifies government’s commitment to use its apparatus and individuals to achieve its aspiration of removing Chizuma on her position as the ACB Director.
The CSOs further said Zamba’s action is questionable, arbitrary and offends the prevailing laws in the circumstances of the matter.
They have demanded president Chakwera to make sure that the interdiction is withdrawn by Monday 6th February, 2023.
“We are of the view that the President should be bold enough to publicly exercise powers vested in him to suspend the Director General rather than being hypocritical as well as part of the present confusion.
“The President should direct the SPC to immediately withdraw the interdiction of the Director General and commit to provide unwavering support to the office in pursuit of the fight against corruption, reads part of the statement.
The statement further directs the newly appointed Director of Public Prosecution to immediately review the Chizuma file and inform Malawians on the direction that his office intends to take not later than 10th February, 2023.
These CSOs have then reminded Chakwera to walk the talk and ensure that all actions taken in fighting corruption are in the public interest and that if government sticks to the interdiction until Monday, they will mobilise people to demonstrate against the decision.
“As stakeholders, we condemn any sign of impunity and disrespect of the rule of law. Should the President and government fail to formally withdraw the interdiction by Monday, 6th January, 2023, we will be compelled to mobilise Malawians across the divide to stand up for justice and the rule of law through demonstrations and other civil means,” said the CSOs.
The statement further urges Malawians to stand up and defend democracy, justice and the rule of law by firmly holding duty bearers to account, saying the war against corruption cannot be won if government machinery is running in opposite, and to make the matter worse, if the leadership demonstrates lack of control over the affairs of the state.
Chizuma is expected to appear before court next week to answer charge of making use of speech capable of prejudicing a person against a party to judicial proceedings, contrary to section 113(d) of the Penal Code, relating to Steven Kayuni’s complaint.
She is also expected to answer charge of making use of speech calculated to lower authority of a person before whom a judicial proceeding is being had, contrary to section 113(d) of the Penal Code, relating to Chizuma’s alleged audio remarks that Justice Simeon Mdeza was bribed when he presided over a case involving Ashok Kumar Sreedharan.
However, in a twist of events, last week Mdeza told the local media that he did not lodge a complaint with the Malawi Police and was surprised to see his name on the charge sheet.
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