Friday, July 12, 2024
HomeOpinionIt's indeed time for Martha Chizuma to go out of ACB

It’s indeed time for Martha Chizuma to go out of ACB

DPP Steven Kayini and Martha Chizuma

By Deus Chikalaza

For some of us we saw this coming. Actually, the argument has been that Martha Chizuma’s position at Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been unattainable.

Even if President Lazarus Chakwera, this time, again chooses to side with the ‘devil’, I doubt if the ‘pangolin’ would be able to continue executing her duties with the dexterity that is required of her.

The Justice Twea-led Commission of Inquiry has finally said it all. In Chichewa “A Justice Twea ndi anzawo athira mchenga mu mpunga wagulu.”

But the question would be, how have we found ourselves in this current situation and why as Malawians we are not ready to shed a single tear for Chizuma?

Our only prayer, if we are going to move forward from here, is that everyone including the donors and numerous development partners should support President Chakwera in whatever decision he is to make following the Commission’s report and recommendations.

If we are going to stop moving in circles in as far as fighting corruption is concerned, as Malawians we call all concerned development partners who have been supporting Chizuma to carry on as the ACB boss despite the numerous personal shortcomings, to loosen their grip and let pre-recommendations be his own man and handle this to the best of his capabilities.

From where we are coming from, it would be folly, senseless and not in the interest of Malawians for the international community to come gun blazing if finally Chizuma is finally fired.

Before today, a lot has happened since her appointment and it is by the mercy of President Chakwera that today we are still talking about Chizuma as ACB Director General.

The lady was supposed to be fired long time ago.

Chizuma took up her office at ACB, straight from her successful sojourn as an Ombudsman, with pomp, drama and much hype sending signals that probably Malawi has found that chosen one who would be able to deal with corruption which, to say the least, had reached a cancerous proportion in the country.

Now, just like the deafening noise that accompanied her appointment, 18-months down the line, the noise was back and this time louder.

Ironically, the noise was mostly coming from the same people who supported and pushed for her appointment, only that this time around it was no longer in support of the “Iron Lady” of a year and half ago, but rather calling for her to leave the office through self-resignation or the authorities to show no mercy but fire her.

Reason. She has dismally performed and embarrassingly failed to move at the pace that Malawians were expecting.

The message was clear across different public forums including social media and radio broadcasts, that people would not want Chizuma see another day in the office.

In a News Talk phone-in program on Capital Radio, Malawians rated Chizuma poorly as ACB DG with 90% of them feeling that she has failed and demanding that she should leave the Bureau.

Social commentator and analyst Humphrey Mvula also weighed in on the Chizuma debate arguing that despite President Chakwera supporting the Bureau, the efforts were being frustrated by the Director General.

To some of us, with support or no support, a day was supposed to come for Chizuma to account for what she has achieved at the graft-busting body. And so far she is rated lowly.

When one compares her with her predecessors, one would be forced to agree with the sentiments raised by most Malawians. Her immediate predecessor Reyneck Matemba started and concluded several high-profile cases and secured convictions. These high-profile cases include those of business guru Thom Mpinganjira, former Cabinet Minister Uladi Mussa, and former Member of Parliament for Mzimba Hora Mzomera Ngwira.

Matemba is one of the ACB bosses who was talking less but was not tired of going to court and doing what he was appointed to do.

The same cannot be said of Chizuma. During her stay at the Bureau, high-profile investigations have been announced and in some cases such mention of investigations has led to arrests, however, so far there is little to show for the hype in investigations and arrests.

Chizuma has even failed to conclude some of the cases her predecessor started.

Some of the cases that have stalled or have no clear direction include the one involving NOCMA, former Minister Newton Kambala, former Presidential Advisor Chris Chaima Banda and AFORD President Enock Chihana.

These people were arrested on August 10, 2021 and when the matter was brought to court, Chizuma failed to make any meaningful maneuvers, and seems this case is a still-born.

Then we have the Cementgate saga involving some officers at Malawi Revenue Authority as well as former President Peter Mutharika and his aides Norman Chisale and Peter Mukhito.

This is a case started by Matemba, but Chizuma has been failing to take it off from where it was left, if anything the case has just been embodied in several issues, most of them caused by the ACB DG’s incompetence and dis-organisation.

There is also the arrest of former Lands Minister Kenzie Msukwa and others. Then we had the investigations and arrests of Principal Secretary Kennedy Nkhoma and former PS Samuel Madula; nobody could claim to know what is happening to this case.

On August 26, 2021 the ACB again arrested former Minister Charles Mchacha, Dr Henrie Njoloma, a former PS at Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development, and the then Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) acting Chief Executive Officer Moses Mwenye after it transpired that LWB irregularly paid for Mchacha’s honeymoon at Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre.

After the arrests, the case has never been heard of.

On November 18, 2021 the Bureau also arrested Commissioner of National Statistical Office Charles Machinjiri and Hastings Dowe, an NSO Human Resource Management Officer and on December 15, 2021 the ACB arrested businessman Abdul Karrim Batatawala and Fletcher Nyirenda, Commissioner for Operations at Immigration Department.

These are some of the high-profile cases whose future is not clear and since April 2021 there have also been more investigations announced and arrests made but nothing has been heard of on such cases.

The only case which probably Chizuma can claim as a success story is that involving former National Roads Authority CEO Trevor Hiwa who the High Court in Lilongwe on October 12, 2021 found him with a case to answer. But then we just had that, the case is failing to move forward.

Some observers have argued that the ACB boss has failed to make a mark due to her severe limitations in prosecution.

With a track record as a magistrate followed by some corporate work then Ombudsman, she does not have what it takes to stand in court before learned Judges and Magistrates and offer sound arguments or grill suspects to punch holes into their submissions, against equally learned and experienced defense lawyers.

In most of her appearances in court, ACB under Chizuma has looked so unsophisticated and unprepared.

This far and under the leadership of Chizuma, ACB’s showing, has been an indication that Malawi has a long way to fight corruption if people like Martha Chizuma are allowed to head bodies like the ACB.

Now, if you ask me some of us were eagerly waiting for this vindication from an independent body like the Twea Commission.

Some of us are optimistic that from here, if the right decision is made based on the recommendation from the Commission, Malawi will move in the desired direction in this fight against corruption.

It has been apparent that the shoes have been too big for Martha.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor

Maravi Post Author
Maravi Post Author
Today's Opinion · Op-Ed Columnists · Editorials · Op-Ed Contributors to the Maravi Post· The Maravi Post accepts opinion essays on any topic. Published pieces typically run from 400 to 1,200 words, but drafts of any length within the bounds of reason will be considered.
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