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Malawi’s President Chakwera strips VP Chilima of powers after corruption allegations

In a move to combat corruption, President Chakwera is following up on a recent report by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and fired senior officials, including inspector general of police George Kainja.

This is not the first time that Chakwera and his vice-president have disagreed, with reports of growing tensions in local papers in January. The President cannot sack the vice-president, as his deputy serves in an elected position.

The Sattar scandal

This week, police chief Kainja and vice-president Chilima appeared on a list among other senior officials who have allegedly accepted money and gifts from British businessman Zuneth Sattar in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

The ACB is investigating Sattar for corruption, fraud and money laundering related to 16 contracts. According to the ACB’s reports, Chilima and 52 current and former officials allegedly received money from Sattar between 2017 and 2021.

The ACB’s probe found that among the 84 individuals who allegedly received money from Sattar, 13 people “conducted themselves corruptly in dealing with the businessman”. The ACB also named the chief of staff for state residences Prince Kapondamgaga and the chair of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority John Suzi Banda in its report.

Who is Sattar?

Malawi-born businessman Sattar moved to the United Kingdom in 2014 and is now a British citizen. He is the director of 11 UK-based companies, including Xavier Investments, a property investment firm.

In May, judges refused to lift bail restrictions that prevented Sattar from leaving the UK, and he remains under investigation by the National Crime Agency for alleged corruption relating to three public contracts with the Malawi government. He denies all wrongdoing.

President strikes back

In a national address on 21 June, President Chakwera laid out what his office will be doing to fight corruption.

He said:

I have directed the minister of justice to work with my office in reviewing the Malawi Public Service Regulations and ensure that they are amended accordingly to require all public servants without exception to declare any gifts they receive about a certain value from buisnesspersons.

The European Union ambassador to Malawi, Rune Skinnebach, commended the President for taking a stand but said more needs to be done. He said: “The firing of the police inspector general alone is not enough, but at least that is one of the achievements in the fight against corruption which is deeply rooted in the country and it needs people’s mindset to be changed.”

Chilima is waiting to see whether he is to remain in office. So far, he has not responded to the ACB report.

Chakwera and Chilima were elected in 2020 on an anticorruption platform. He then stated: “Malawians deserve better.”

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