Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has stopped delegating duties to his deputy Saulos Chilima, who is alleged to have received money from a businessman who paid kickbacks to get government contracts.
President Chakwera announced the drastic decision on Tuesday as he moved to deal with yet another major corruption scandal involving members of his Cabinet this year.
The Malawian leader was earlier this year forced to dismiss his entire Cabinet after three ministers became embroiled in corruption scandals.
The latest scandal revolves around local businessman Zuneth Sattar, who is accused of paying 53 serving and former public officers, including Mr Chilima, various sums of money between March 2021 and October 2021 in exchange for government contracts.
Removal from office
Mr Sattar is said to have also paid bribes to journalists, private sector executives and civil society activists.
President Chakwera said he decided to sideline his deputy after receiving a report from the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on investigations into the businessman’s activities.
He said the Malawian constitution does not provide for the suspension of the vice-president or his removal from office by the president, hence the decision to stop delegating him duties.
“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,” President Chakwera said.
He said the ACB did not provide any information on what Mr Chilima received from Mr Sattar or the role he played in the scandal and went on to criticise the report as substandard.
Profiting from land deals
“On a matter as serious and sensitive as this, Malawians deserve better,” the president added.
He also announced the dismissal of the inspector-general of Malawi police, George Kainja, and the chief of staff for state residences, Prince Kapondamgaga. He also suspended John Suzi Banda, the chairperson of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, over the same scandal.
In January, President Chakwera vowed to “confront all forms of lawless conduct by public officials” as he dismissed his entire Cabinet over corruption scandals.
The dismissed ministers were Kezzie Msukwa (lands), who was accused of profiting from land deals involving a Malawian businessman based in the United Kingdom.
Also dismissed were labour minister Ken Kandodo, who was accused of stealing Covid-19 funds, and energy minister Newton Kambala, who was accused of manipulating fuel import deals.
President Chakwera was elected in 2020 on promises to fight endemic corruption, but of late he has faced criticism that he is not acting against senior government officials accused of graft.
He is also under intense pressure to end an economic crisis characterised by rising inflation and a shortage of foreign currency.