Court orders probe into Chizuma audio

The Mzuzu Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court has ordered the Malawi Police Service and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to investigate a leaked audio involving Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Martha Chizuma.

In a ruling made yesterday following an application by Mzuzu resident Frighton Phombo, senior resident magistrate Godfrey Nyirenda also ordered the two entities to ascertain if criminal charges can be brought against Chizuma.

Her conversation leaked: Chizuma

Phombo moved the court to open a case against Chizuma on allegations that she violated the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) by revealing to a third party information on United Kindom-based businessperson Zunneth Sattar, who is under investigation for corruption.

According to the court document, Phombo said Chizuma committed an offence of directly revealing official information to un-authorised person, contrary to regulation 4(a) of the CPA, and that of making use of speech capable of prejudicing a person against a party to judicial proceedings, contrary to Section 113 (1) (d) of the Penal Code.

But Nyirenda said even though a leeway is given for private citizens to institute criminal proceedings, the overall and ultimate authority over such proceedings remains with the DPP.

Ordered to probe: DPP Steven Kayuni

Reads the ruling in part: “In the circumstances, the court orders the Director of Criminal Investigations Department of the Malawi Police Service, in consultation with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to carry out further investigations for purposes of ascertaining the truth/authenticity or falsehood of the recordings and also to find out whether the charges, as proffered by the complainant, are tenable at law in the circumstances of this matter.

“The results of such investigations should be reported to this court within 90 days from the date of this order or reasonably soon therafter.”

On January 24, President Lazarus Chakwera reprimanded Chizuma for the leaked conversation, indicating that he had summoned her for a meeting where she confirmed speaking about ongoing investigation in the leaked audio that had gone viral.

He described her action as unfortunate but said he would not dismiss her. Instead, he issued a stern warning that he will keep an eye on her conduct.

Chakwera said: “I would like to state why I appointed her to head the Anti-Corruption Bureau in the first place and why I have reaffirmed that position with a warning.

“I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great courage, the kind of courage needed to take on dangerous cartels of corruption that have milked our country dry for decades.”

Chizuma is also facing defamation charges lodged by Sattar’s business associate Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, who sued based on the same leaked audio in which the ACB head alleges that money changed hands to have the applicant released after an arrest.

The leaked audio stirred debate as some quarters of society said it was a huge scandal and called for the immediate resignation of the ACB boss.

In the audio, Chizuma put in the spotlight churches, judges, lawyers and the Presidency as not helping matters in the Sattar case, which so far, she said has proved politically divisive

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