Prof Danwood Chirwa, an eminent legal scholar says President Lazarus Chakwera is leading efforts to undermine accountability institutions in Malawi.
Everyone expected the Twea commission of inquiry to be a whitewash, a continuation of the obstruction of justice effort by Lazarus Chakwera and his corruption-ridden government; but the fact that commission’s report has turned out to be such is no less shocking.
Malawi is dealing with an unprecedented effort to undermine of the country’s corruption fighting agency, the ACB. It is clear now that this assault is led by the President himself, a man who has turned the entire Ministry of Justice into a circus, and unleashed the DPP, the Attorney General and the Police to harass the ACB Director and her staff. By word of mouth, Lazarus Chakwera pretends to be a crusader against corruption. By action, he repeatedly reveals himself as an enabler, an accessory or, possibly, an accomplice.
Examples of interference with the work of the ACB have included:
(a) public statements by the President and party agents emasculating and intimidating the ACB and its Director;
(b) the bogus amnesty policy which only failed to materialise due to public pressure; and
(c) the use of the consent scheme by the DPP to delay or frustrate the work of the ACB.
The recent arrest of the ACB Director represents the most grotesque attempt to frustrate the ACB and the various criminal investigations it is conducting which implicate members of Chakwera’s government and allied businessmen.
This kind of brutality and impunity has not been seen since 1994.
The appointment of the Twea Commission followed the universal public rebuke of the police and Chakwera government following the unexpected arrest of the ACB Director. In truth, Chakwera had long been looking for a pretext to terminate the tenure of the current ACB Director.
The Twea Report (which has been released only in summary form) must be considered against this background. As we await the full report to be released, obvious substantive, procedural and logical concerns abound.
(a) The Report shows no understanding of the context in which the inquiry was instituted – namely, rampant corruption implicating the current government and senior officials including possibly the President himself.
(b) The commission failed to examine the legality of its own mandate in the context of a chain of obstruction of justice activities that have already taken place.
(c) The summary says nothing about the methodology it employed.
(d) Its conclusions and findings are often contradictory, and at times simply naive or downright irrational.
(e) The ignorance of the constitutional and human rights frameworks in which criminal investigations are conducted, and of the independence of prosecutorial agencies and the rights of those alleged to have committed criminal offences, is astounding.
The Malawi Law Society has already highlighted some of the procedural concerns I’m referring to. Public inquiries are supposed to be conducted in public. The evidence must be adequately tested. Here we have an inquiry that was conducted almost secretly, hurriedly, and whose full record has been withheld from the public.
The lawfulness of the inquiry raises serious constitutional problems. The entire exercise represents an extraordinary effort to destroy institutions of accountability. In this regard, the Twea report is staggering in its naivety, especially in failing to reflect on its on role in furthering the obstruction of justice project.
To be sure, the President has no business making orders as to who must be arrested and who must be released from detention. The inquiry has no business advising on who has committed an offence and who hasn’t, just as the President has no mandate in this. This is the first time the rule of law has been undermined in this way.
I could go on and on specifying the obvious errors in the Twea report. The summary is that we are dealing with a President whose conscience and sincerity are questionable. The Twea report must be rejected in its totality; it represents the most brazen effort by Lazarus Chakwera to undermine the ACB and its work.