The Anti-Corruption Bureau in Malawi has arrested its former director, Reyneck Matemba, for allegedly taking a bribe for a contract to supply food to the country’s police service. John Suzi-Banda, the former director of Malawi’s Public Procurement Agency was also arrested. Both are expected to be officially charged with abuse of power and could face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.
Anti-Corruption Bureau spokesperson Egrita Ndala said in statement, Matemba and Suzi-Banda were arrested over the weekend for allegedly receiving kickbacks from a businessman, Zuneth Sattar, to supply 350,000 food ration packs worth U.S. $7,875,000 to the Malawi Police Service.
She says investigations established that Matemba pocketed $10,000 as an advantage for the vetting process of the food rations contract.
While Suzi-Banda received MK3,000,000 (U.S.$2,900) from Sattar’s agent Zun Cheena to influence Suzi-Banda to award the Malawi Police Service contract to Sattar’s company without objection.
George Phiri, a political science lecturer based in Mzuzu, north of Malawi, says the arrests confirm how rooted corruption is in Malawi.
“It important that they have arrested the former chief of the anti- corruption bureau, and this gives a picture of the country. It shows that each and any arm of the government; judiciary, legislature and executive, all these have been found with corruption cases,” he said.
The current director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Martha Chizuma said last month that in Malawi a week does not pass without new revelations about corruption.
Peter Sambani, a senior legal prosecution officer for the Anti-Corruption Bureau, says Matemba, who is now on bail, has yet to be formally charged.
“The Corrupt Practices ACT under section 42, requires that for the bureau to prosecute, we need to obtain consent from the DPP [Director of Public Prosecution] and as such we cannot charge the accused person other than we just bring the accused person to court to tell them the reason of their arrest,” he said.
However, Phiri, says this is worrying.
“Because it makes no sense arresting the person in the morning and releasing him by bail in the afternoon. Yes, bail is freedom of a person, but it should not take years before such a person is taken back to court,” he said.
However, ministry justice officials say the Malawi government is working to address challenges which contribute to delays in concluding various cases.
They cite a recent move by Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera to appoint seven new high court judges to clear the backlog of cases in the courts.
The arrests of Matemba and Suzi-Banda come during Malawi’s 20-week long anti-graft campaign which Chakwera launched last month.