Malawi President Chakwera strips deputy Saulos Chilima of powers over graft

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima. [Vanguard Africa]

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has stripped his deputy Saulos Chilima of delegated powers over a corruption scandal.

Chakwera, in a televised address on Wednesday announced his decision after receiving the procurement report in which Chilima is alleged to have received money from corruption linked to British businessman Zuneth Sattar.

Malawian news outlets said the scandal that has rocked the country is linked to the businessman who allegedly gave bribes to public officers in exchange of securing government contracts worth $150 million (Sh17 billion).

The report concluded that fifty-three (53) current and former public officers received money from Sattar between March 2021 and October 2021. There are also some thirty-one individuals from the private sector, media and civil society who allegedly received money.

The officers include some from Office of the President and Cabinet, Malawi Police Service, Office of the Vice President, State House, Reserve Bank of Malawi, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Malawi Broadcasting Station and various ministries.

According to Malawi’s constitution, Chakwera cannot suspend or remove Chilima from office since he is an elected official.

“As such, the best I can do for now, which is what I have decided to do, is to withhold from his office any delegated duties while waiting for the Bureau to substantiate its allegations against him and to make known its course of action in relation to such,” said Chakwera.

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

Sattar is being investigated in the UK and Malawi on corruption, fraud and money-laundering allegations.

According to the Head of State, apart from his deputy Chilima, no other member of his Cabinet has been mentioned in the list. However, he [Chakwera] said that the bureau did not provide any information on what Chilima and other government officials did.

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

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