US Blacklists Four Malawian Officials Over Corruption

Reyneck Thokozani Matemba

The United States has banned four former Malawi government officials from entering the country “due to their involvement in significant corruption” relating to the Malawi Police Service, where Zuneth Sattar and Abdul Karim Batatawala are accused of fraudulently winning tenders.

The officials are former Solicitor General and Secretary of Justice Reyneck Matemba, former Director of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets John Suzi Banda, former Malawi Police Service Attorney Mwabi Kaluba, and former Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service George Kainja.

“Matemba, Suzi Banda, Kaluba, and Kainja abused their public positions by accepting bribes and other articles of value from a private businessperson in exchange for awarding a government procurement contract for the Malawi Police Service,” reads the statement.

Their spouses have also been banned from going to the US. “The Department is also designating Matemba’s spouse, Rhoda Violet Matemba Maxwell; Suzi-Banda’s spouse, Mariana Ismael Suzi-Banda; Kaluba’s spouse, Bernadette Mwangosi; and Kainja’s spouse, Jacqueline de Silva Kainja, as generally ineligible for entry into the United States,” reads the statement.

John Suzi Banda
John Suzi Banda banned

Their ban relates to allegations of corruption at the Malawi Police, where contracts involving Abdul Karim Batatawala and Zuneth Sattar have resulted in fraud, money laundering, and corruption cases.

The fight against corruption in Malawi is a daunting task as watchdogs face extrajudicial death threats. Top investigative journalist in Malawi, Gregory Gondwe, has been exiled for uncovering fraudulent deals involving the Malawi Police and the Malawi Defence Force (MDF).

Just last week, journalist Macmillan Mhone was arrested by the Malawi Police over a story reporting on allegations that business tycoon Batatawala was using proxies to circumvent a ruling that barred him from doing business with the Malawian government due to fraud and corruption charges.

Last year, the Malawi Police also arrested the Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Martha Chizuma, in what critics viewed as part of efforts to stifle the fight against corruption involving the Malawi Police, which is under the Ministry of Homeland and National Security.

Matemba and Suzi-Banda were arrested in August 2022 for allegedly receiving kickbacks from businessman Zuneth Sattar to supply 350,000 food ration packs worth US $7,875,000 (equivalent to 13 billion Malawi Kwacha) to the Malawi Police Service.

Investigations revealed that Matemba pocketed $10,000 as a benefit for overseeing the vetting process of the food rations contract.

Suzi-Banda received MK3,000,000 (approximately US $2,900) from Sattar’s agent, Zun Cheena, to influence him to award the Malawi Police Service contract to Sattar’s company without objection.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Kainja and Mwabi Kaluba in June 2022. Kainja was detained for allegedly “receiving an advantage” from Mr. Sattar when he was granted a contract worth $875,000 to supply 350,000 food rations to the Malawi Police Service.

“The investigations conducted by the bureau established that Dr. George Kainja solicited an advantage in the form of a vehicle and $8,000,” the report stated.

Kaluba, the former Deputy Police Commissioner, is accused of corruptly obtaining $20,000 from a British businessman as an advantage for assisting in the procurement contract of the food ration packs.