Malawi president strips VP of powers over corruption

Wednesday June 22 2022
Chakwera, Chilima

Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima. PHOTO | FILE

By AFP

Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera on Tuesday relieved his Vice President Saulos Chilima of all delegated powers after the latter was named in a corruption scandal that has rocked the country.

A probe into procurement fraud by the country's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) concluded that 53 current and former public officers received money from British-Malawian businessman Zuneth Sattar between March and October 2021, Chakwera said.

Sattar is being investigated in Britain and Malawi on corruption, fraud and money-laundering charges.

According to Malawi's constitution, Chakwera cannot suspend or remove Chilima because he is an elected official.

"The best I can do for now... is to withhold from his office any delegated duties while waiting for the bureau to substantiate its allegations against him," said Chakwera.

There was no immediate response from Chilima, who partnered with Chakwera to win the 2020 presidential election on an anti-corruption platform.

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Chilima also joined Chakwera in challenging fraudulent elections in 2019, which led to a court-sanctioned poll the following year where Chakwera defeated former leader Peter Mutharika.

In a national address, Chakwera also fired the country's top police officer George Kainja, who was caught on tape discussing deals and kickbacks with Sattar.

The Malawian leader also suspended his chief of staff and the chairman of the country's procurement directorate, who are also mentioned in the ACB report.

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Another 31 individuals "from the private sector, the media, civil society, and the legal fraternity" also received money from Sattar, Chakwera said.

He added that the graft-busting body found that Malawi's police and army awarded 16 contracts worth more than $150 million to five companies belonging to Sattar between 2017 and 2021.

"Some public officers allegedly abused their offices either by intentionally flouting procurement procedures or by usurping procurement functions outside their mandate," he said.

Several serving and former ministers have already been arrested in connection with the investigation.