The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) board chairperson Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe and Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale have defended newly-appointed Mera acting chief executive officer Ishmael Chioko, saying he will not be interdicted as he has not been found guilty of any offence.
Chioko is currently on bail after being charged with money laundering in what has popularly come to be known as Cashgate.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Bvumbwe emphasised that the Mera board will only act if Chioko is found guilty of an offence.
“I was not aware because I found him there when I was joining. He was chosen to act because he has been serving in a senior position and, therefore, had every right to be appointed in an acting capacity.
“Should there be any wrongdoing on his part, we would not hesitate to take action. We are not defending him, but anyone can act like in this case. We would look into the issue and we would not hesitate to act,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kaphale has said he would not be worried about the status of Chioko as everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court.
Said Kaphale: “You don’t want to freeze people’s lives simply because they are suspects. One has to be tried. If he has a case and besides he is just acting.”
Commenting on why Chioko is not being interdicted, Kaphale said what he is being accused of has nothing to do with Mera, but is a mere accusation emanating from his private practice as a lawyer.
“He may have given advice on behalf of the one accused in Cashgate [suspect] not that he himself was [involved in] Cashgate. I don’t know whether it is facilitating. But you know as a lawyer you are exposed to all kinds of things. Since it happened outside Mera, it could be the same reason. He is only in acting capacity,” he said.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) deputy director Reyneck Matemba said they cannot influence Chioko’s interdiction.
He said: “It’s up to the Mera board to either discipline him [or not], but, as ACB, we cannot intervene as it is a civil case.”
Meanwhile, Principal Secretary (PS) for the Department of Human Resource Management and Development Blessings Chilabade said he is not aware of Chioko’s status.
He reffered this reporter to comptroller of Statutory Services Zangazanga Chikhosi who we could not reach.
Some civil society organisations have given Mera an ultimatum to remove Chioko from his post or face legal action.