The Anti Corruption Bureau has come fire from a section of legal experts who have queried its ‘unacceptable’ conduct of implicating people or arresting them without intention to expedite their fate.
The legal experts have since asked the graft busting body and its director Martha Chizuma to be decisive and move with speed in either exonerating those ACB accused falsely or proceeding with prosecution after gathering good evidence.
Nation newspaper of Tuesday 16th May 2023 quotes Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Patrick Mpaka and renowned lawyer Justin Dzonzi questioning the ACB’s tendency of arresting people willy nilly or implicating public officers before conducting thorough investigations.
In the interview Mpaka said he expected the ACB to follow the dictates of the law of effecting arrests and taking the accused to court within 48 hours.
“This is the reason we have investigation departments and prosecution departments in the institutions that handle criminal cases. The 48 – hour rule must be respected at all times. There is no justification to connect someone to a criminal case or make an arrest then take forever to bring that person before the court. The time an arrest is being made, the prosecution department should be ready to move the courts,” Mpaka said.
For many months now Chizuma – a lawyer herself – has always come under criticism from the legal fraternity for using her office to scare people by mentioning names of people it is investigating without further action.
Case in point is that of State House Chief of Staff, Prince Kapondamgaga, who was suspended a year ago by President Lazarus Chakwera after ACB mentioned him in a report. Since then ACB has not made any move on him and inside sources say there is little or no tangible evidence to bring him to book.
Other people mentioned in the same report like Vice President Saulos Chilima and former Police Inspector General George Kainja were arrested and charged according to the law.
Social commentator Humphrey Mvula finds it strange that people like Kapondamgaga continue being victimized based on reports that were not meant to facilitate prosecution in the first place.
“Here is a man who was mentioned by the ACB that he was connected to some corruption case. He was never charged nor arrested by the bureau, but the President suspended him based on a statement the ACB made. Look, as we speak, more than 10 months later, the man is still on suspension. His fate lies in the hands of the bureau that is not making any noticeable move. Authorities must move with speed on such cases,” Mvula is quoted by the Nation newspaper.
Also speaking on the same matter, as quoted by Nation newspaper, was Dzonzi who is executive director at Justice Link.
He condemned the bureau for always issuing press statements about arrests but fail to act swiftly in accordance with the law.
“Any arrest made must be on the basis that an offence was committed. There is no reason to arrest based a mere suspicion. To investigate a case is to find out and confirm the suspicion. Arresting and prosecuting authorities must always bear in mind that an arrest destroys one’s reputation and affects one’s livelihood.
The ideal situation would be that if one is mentioned to be connected to an allegation of corruption or any crime, the arresting and prosecuting authorities should be able to take that person to court at least within one month,” said Dzonzi.
Since Chizuma came into office two years ago, she has been accused for concentrating on appearing in the media instead of working hard to prosecute accused people in court.