Three days after President Lazarus Chakwera withheld his delegated functions pending investigations of his alleged involvement in corruption, Vice-President Saulos Chilima challenged the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to expedite the process and quiz him.
In a statement signed by the Office of the Vice-President director of communications Pilirani Phiri, the Vice-President on Thursday denied allegations that he corruptly benefited from United Kingdom-based Malawian businessperson Zuneth Sattar, who is under investigation on corruption charges.
Chilima, widely addressed by the initials SKC standing for Saulos Klaus Chilima, expressed frustration with the manner the graft-busting agency handled the matter.
This is the first time the Vice-President has made a public statement since his name was purportedly mentioned last month in a UK court on his alleged involvement with Sattar.
Reads the statement: “The report apparently makes serious allegations of criminal conduct against the Vice-President although, as correctly observed by the President in his address, the report does not present any detail of the alleged criminal conduct.
“The Vice-President finds the manner in which the bureau has proceeded very troublingly. The bureau has, in essence, accused him of a crime without providing any particulars or evidence in support of the crime.”
The statement said the Vice-President further finds it curious that the bureau has not yet confronted him so that he provides his side of the story.
It further reads: “Instead, a prejudicial one-sided public narrative has been sustained for months, which has incited public anger against the so-called mentioned individuals who helplessly watch their lives being ruined as they wait for the opportunity to voice their side of the story. There is a profound sense of justice that is entirely lacking in this approach.
“For the record, the Vice-President vehemently denies the allegations that have been levelled against him and will welcome the opportunity at an appropriate time of challenging the said allegations.”
Chilima insisted that at no point has he ever engaged in a criminal scheme as suggested by the bureau, adding that he is confident that he will be vindicated on this.
But commenting on the matter, revered private prosecutor Kamudoni Nyasulu said it was too early to blame the ACB for anything because the report presented to the President was general.
He said the bureau usually summons suspects after gathering some evidence and not just mere suspicion.
The legal expert said the ACB produces different kinds of reports based on the law and the one produced in line with Section Four of the Corrupt Practices Act goes to the minister and the President “regarding the general conduct of the affairs of the bureau”.
Said Nyasulu: “The bureau can also issue a report advising public bodies and private bodies on ways and means of preventing corrupt practices and on changes in methods of work or procedures of such public bodies and private bodies.
“It can also report its findings and recommendations to the appropriate authority regarding any matter which reveals, or points to, the existence or prevalence of any conduct connected with; or conducive to, corrupt practices.”
In a separate interview, governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said the Vice-President was simply echoing the President’s line of thinking on the report’s lack of details.
He said: “The VP, just like the President, seems to be bitter with ACB. However, there must be valid reasons why ACB may have decided not to include all the details, including the evidence which might be critical at the prosecution stage in court.
“Instead of attacking ACB for being politically compromised, the Veep should allow the due process to vindicate him. This in essence means the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions allowing ACB to prosecute the matter without hindrances.”
In his national address on Tuesday evening, Chakwera announced that he will withhold any delegated duties to the Vice-President following the Second Citizen’s implication in the ACB report which he had demanded the bureau present to him to help inform his decision on the Sattar issue, which has formed part of the wider public discourse in recent months.
The President also fired Inspector General of Police George Kainja and suspended State House chief of staff Prince Kapondamgaga over the same issue.
On Thursday, Chilima attended a Cabinet meeting at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe and was seen sitting next to the President alongside Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba.