Malawi President dissolves entire Cabinet

25 January 2022

The President of Malawi has dissolved his entire Cabinet in bold response to leaked claims of corruption from the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The Scotland Malawi Partnership stands with Malawi, its President, Government, Parliament and people, as it battles the scourge of corruption, through not just strong words but bold, immediate action.

Read the full 24th January Presidential address here or watch it in full on Facebook below.

In his unprecedented national address, President Lazarus Chakwera (Scotland Malawi Partnership Hon. Co Patron), explained that earlier that day he had met with the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Ms. Martha Chizuma, and the Minister of Justice, Hon. Titus Mvalo. This was following a leaked audio recording, widely reported in the Malawi media, of Martha Chizuma speaking candidly about widespread corruption in Malawi.

President Chakwera has taken a consistently hard line against corruption, making clear that governance strengthening is a key priority for his time in office.

The President stated that while “Ms. Chizuma’s conduct in this unfortunate incident has been disappointing”, in terms of her discussions about confidential ACB investigations, he emphasised that he appointed her because of her fearless determination to stand up to corruption:

“I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great integrity, the kind of integrity needed to resist every inducement that would be thrown her way to compromise her. I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great strength, the kind of strength needed to keep fighting for justice even when it looks hopeless and dark.”

The President stood by Martha Chizuma and used the speech to make a passionate call for Malawians to join him in the fight against corruption.

The President made key two pronouncements in his speech, “as a further demonstration of my resolve to confront all forms of lawless conduct by public officials”.

“First, in exercise of the powers vested in me by the Constitution, I have dissolved my entire Cabinet effective immediately, and all the functions of Cabinet revert to my office until I announce a reconfigured Cabinet in two days.” The President made clear that the new Cabinet would exclude the current Minister of Lands, to allow him to answer the corruption charges he is facing in court, emphasising this was the same immediate action he had taken against two previous Ministers.

Secondly, the President stated that “I have directed the Minister of Justice to inform the Attorney General that I do not support the offer of amnesty to those who defrauded Government and the Malawian people.” The idea of an amnesty had been a manifesto commitment of the President’s while campaigning: a pragmatic way of trying to recover lost state assets. However, in his 24 January address the President said such an amnesty “cannot be effected without a clear legislative framework that allows it to be implemented lawfully and without appearing soft on corruption”.

The President concluded his speech saying: “the developments surrounding Ms. Chizuma are a timely reminder that the war on corruption is too vast to be waged or won by one person or one agency. It needs Malawians of courage and integrity in intelligence agencies like the Financial Intelligence Authority and the National Intelligence Service. It needs Malawians of courage and integrity in law enforcement agencies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Malawi Police Service. It needs Malawians of courage and integrity in watchdog entities like the Malawi Human Rights Commission, the National Assembly, and the Ombudsman. It needs Malawians of courage and integrity in regulatory agencies like the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Reserve Bank of Malawi, and others. It needs Malawians of courage and integrity in the Executive and Judicial branches of Government, and in the political parties that compete for state power. And crucially, it needs Malawians of courage and integrity among the Citizenry to report any acts of corruption they witness.”

With encouragement from the President, the Scotland Malawi Partnership made 2020-22 our ‘Years of Governance Strengthening’. As part of this, with our sister network in Malawi, we have supported and sponsored a new 400+ page, peer-reviewed publication on governance in Malawi, written by Malawi’s 25 leading academics and experts in this area. This is the most authoritative, comprehensive and up to date exploration of good governance in Malawi. The book is being serialised as a series of eight webinars hosted by the SMP and MaSP. As the President announces Malawi’s reconfigured Cabinet on Wednesday, we will be hosting the fourth webinar in this series, looking specifically at “Impunity versus Constitutional Legality”. Speaking in this session will be Dr Garton Kamchedzera and Lord Jim Wallace, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, former Scottish Deputy First Minister and former Attorney General of Scotland. This could not be a more relevant time for this important discussion. Book your place here.