President Lazarus Chakwera last night sacked the entire Cabinet and promised not to retain Lands Minister Kezzie Msukwa.
In a national address from Kamuzu Palace, the President also said he found Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director Martha Chizuma’s behaviour of discussing the ongoing investigation in a leaked audio troubling, but let her off the hook with a warning and a promise that he would be monitoring her conduct.
Chakwera said he was also not in support of Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda’s 60-day amnesty granted to those suspected to have benefitted from proceeds of corruption.
He said: “I have dissolved my entire Cabinet effective immediately, and all the functions of Cabinet revert to my office until I announce a reconfigured Cabinet in two days.”
Chakwera said the new Cabinet will exclude Msukwa, who is being pursued by the ACB for corruption-related charges.
“This will allow him to answer the corruption charges he is facing in court and clear his name there,” he said.
Chakwera, who has been under pressure from civil society and the clergy to sack the minister, said the decision has been made following submission of an official report by ACB on the charges the minister is facing.
The President has over the past months sacked key allies and advisers who came under corruption suspicion.
“This is the same process I followed when I dismissed two ministers in the past,” he said, referring to then Energy minister Newton Kambala and Labour minister Ken Kandodo.
Chakwera said he met Chizuma after a leaked audio in which she was discussing ongoing corruption investigations with an outsider.
The President said during a meeting he had with Chizuma, she admitted that the voice in the recording was hers.
In the audio, Chizuma expresses her frustrations with the fight against corruption and accuses several people, including lawyers and judges, of being too corrupt to deliver justice.
The President chided Chizuma for unprofessional conduct, saying he was disappointed that the she failed to exercise restraint on what to discuss and with whom.
Chakwera said he stood by Chizuma to see to it that Parliament confirmed her after she was initially rejected by its Public Appointments Committee, therefore, he reaffirmed his commitment not to interfere in the operations of the ACB.
He said: “My resolve to win this fight is the reason why I have never once interfered with ACB investigations, including those into the conduct of my own ministers.
“My resolve to win this fight is the reason why even I myself have cooperated with ACB investigations by subjecting myself to questioning by its officers, which no sitting Head of State has ever done in this country.”
The decision to sack Msukwa comes barely days after the Public Affairs Committee met Chakwera last Tuesday in Blantyre where they questioned his decision to keep him in the Cabinet, and asked him to reshuffle it.
On the amnesty, the President said he had directed the Minister of Justice to inform the AG Nyirenda that he does not support the offer of amnesty to those who defrauded government and the Malawian people.
“Although the idea of an amnesty was a campaign promise enshrined in our manifesto as a way of speedily recovering government’s stolen assets, it cannot be effected without a clear legislative framework that allows it to be implemented lawfully and without appearing soft on corruption.
“The Minister of Justice is thus instructed to review this policy and work with the Attorney General in designing a sound alternative for recovering Malawi’s stolen treasures,” he said.
In an interview on Monday, former Director of Public Prosecutions Kamudoni Nyasulu said on amnesty, Chakwera has done what the law says, arguing the AG had acted out of the law.
“He [Chakwera] is not saying anything new, it is the AG who is acting differently. You remember it was in their manifesto, but when they came into power, they removed it. It means the AG did not talk to the leadership of the Executive.
Recently, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) said the AG’s amnesty position has no legal basis. MLS president Patrick Mpaka, said the AG has taken a risky path in opting for the amnesty.
On Cabinet dissolution, Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka said it was long overdue.
“What we don’t know is whether he has been satisfied with the Cabinet or not because the expectation was that he was going to give us some assessment of some sort on the people he appointed.
“We remember last time the President and Vice-President met assessing the performance of the Cabinet, but nothing came out and this is a huge opportunity for him to re-energise and renew his government agenda with a Cabinet of integrity and that which can support his agenda.”
The 31-member Cabinet was picked in early July 2020.
On his part, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said their expectation is that the next Cabinet will be based on different parameters.
He said: “This is the biggest opportunity for the President to appoint ministers who can deliver. As HRDC in the first place our understanding of the rejection of amnesty should start with non-performing Cabinet ministers who are just figure heads.” Last week, at a meeting in Blantyre, quasi-religious group Public Affairs Committee, through its chairperson Patrick Thawale, piled pressure on the President by calling for the heads of Msukwa, the Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi and Minister of Foreign affairs Eisenhower Mkaka.