The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it is investigating complaints from Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and other stakeholders that some people are attempting to bribe the five-judge panel working on a judgement for the presidential elections nullification petition.
In a WhatsApp response to an e-mailed questionnaire from The Nation yesterday, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba confirmed that the graft-busting body has received a complaint from Nyirenda and several other interested parties.
But he said he could not disclose details of the individuals alleged to be masterminding the bribery as investigations are underway.
Said Matemba: “I can confirm that the Anti-Corruption Bureau received a written complaint from the Chief Justice on a matter related to the presidential elections case that is pending judgement in the Constitutional Court. We cannot, however, disclose any further details of the complaint.
“Suffice it to say that the ACB is pursuing this particular complaint as well as other written complaints that we also received from different sources and interested stakeholders.
“You may wish to know that the complaints that the ACB received are not against any political party or any of the parties to the presidential elections case, but against specific individuals.”
But Matemba said he could not disclose the amount of money the alleged masterminds were offering the judges. He said that is one of the areas the ACB is pursuing.
High Court of Malawi judges Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo make up the five-judge Constitutional Court panel hearing the case in which UTM Party presidential candidate in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections Saulos Chilima is the first petitioner and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera is the second petitioner.
Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was declared winner of the presidential election with a narrow margin over Chakwera and Chilima, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.
On December 20, the judges 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.
Besides the complaint from the country’s top judge, Matemba said the bureau has also received complaints from several other stakeholders involved in the case over similar attempts to bribe the judges.
Yesterday, Nyirenda could not be reached for comment on several attempts.
High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba was yet to respond to our questionnaire by press time.
But The Nation understands from sources close to the case that two members of the five-judge panel—whose names we have withheld as neither the bureau nor the Judiciary has officially corroborated the information—filed a written complaint to the Chief Justice after being approached by a representative of one of the parties to the case.
The move by the judges prompted Nyirenda to write the letter to the ACB, asking the bureau to expedite investigations.
The identity of the other stakeholders said to have written to bureau with similar allegations remains unknown and it is also unclear at this stage what evidence the bureau has so far received.
In the questionnaire, The Nation asked the graft-busting body specifically to confirm that the judges had met some of the people who attempted to bribe them or their intermediaries; that the judges had written sworn statements to the bureau; names of the two judges who have issued the complaint and the names of the individuals who have been reported to have made the attempt, or their intermediaries.
About 5.1 million Malawians voted in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
In the case, Chilima and Chakwera want the court to nullify the results of the presidential election over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system. Since June, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been organising regular street protests that have at times turned ugly to force MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, and her commissioners to resign for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process.