- 1 public officer, another from private sector
- Matemba refuses to provide names
With the nation’s eyes on the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the alleged judge bribery saga, the graft-busting agency’s director general Reyneck Matemba yesterday gave a description of the suspects but fell short of naming them.
During a highly-anticipated news conference at ACB head office in Lilongwe, he said the best he could do was to indicate that Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, in his complaint to the bureau, mentioned two people— a senior public officer “with one of the [the three] arms of the government” and a prominent businessperson—as the suspects.
While he clarified that the bureau could not just jump into making arrests before investigations were completed, Matemba inadvertently hinted that a member of the Judiciary was under investigation in connection with the alleged bribery attempt, saying: “If that was the case [to arrest suspects before investigations are concluded], the Chief Justice could also have proceeded with disciplinary proceedings against the member of the Judiciary.”
Multiple sources privy to finer details of the case had earlier confided in The Nation that the Chief Justice had named a senior judicial officer and a prominent businessperson as accomplices in the attempt to bribe two of the five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and currently preparing judgement for the presidential election nullification petition case.
During the news conference, Matemba was careful not to give pointers to the identities of the suspected masterminds, but took the unprecedented move to read in full the letter from the Chief Justice.
While vehemently refusing to provide information on whether the bureau has already questioned the suspects and when investigations would be concluded, Matemba twice told journalists and invited members of the public as well as civil society representatives at the conference that ACB was mindful of the need to complete its work within the 45 days the judges are expected to deliver their judgement.
On December 20, the five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo completed hearing the landmark case broadcast live on radio, a first in the country. The judges indicated they would deliver their judgement within 45 days after the close of the hearing.
Matemba, flanked by his deputy Eliah Bodole, told the press that the recorded statements from the two judges who reported the attempts to the Chief Justice do not indicate in whose interest, among the parties to the elections case, the suspects were acting.
He started the conference with a pledge to be transparent, but quickly reminded his interrogative audience that he
was under obligation by law and operational protocols not to disclose certain information which the media would request.
Matemba then outlined a background of the bombshell investigation that has shaken the country ahead of the Constitutional Court ruling.
He said he received a telephone call from the Judiciary on November 28 2019 that the Chief Justice wanted to meet him.
Matemba said it was during his meeting with Nyirenda that the country’s top judge narrated the allegation that judges presiding over the case had reported attempted bribery. He said he asked the head of the Judiciary to put the issues in writing which Nyirenda did on December 2 2019.
He said: “So far, the bureau has investigated the matter for two weeks and is making good progress.”
Matemba, who earlier warned against misinformation as the nation is at a “very critical juncture”, also spent a good part of the news conference defending his record as director general at the graft-fighting agency.
He also dismissed perceptions that the bureau is biased towards government and revealed that he had informed his employers—Malawi Government—that he would not renew his contract.
In the elections case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner) want the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was declared winner of the elections, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.