By Chikumbutso Mtumodzi
Shadric Namalomba is Chairperson for the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC). He was recently appointed as opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Director of Publicity. In an apparent case of overzealousness, Namalomba has issued a statement “warning” the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) against investigating or arresting the former Head of State and DPP President Peter Mutharika.
Namalomba is wearing two hats, one as Spokesperson for the DPP and, two, as Chairperson of PAC. The million-dollar question is which hat is subservient to the other? The best thing he should have done is to avoid issuing that statement because as Chairperson of PAC, his primary responsibility is to investigate wrong-doing by public officers, both past and present, including presidents.
Namalomba should not be seen to turn around and start condemning the very things that he upholds when he is wearing the other PAC hat. In a DPP statement dated 2 October, 2021, Namalomba warns the ACB against “harassing the former President by abusing its powers and legal processes”
Without delving into the nitty-gritty of the statement, it must be said that Namalomba has over-stepped his mark and that his action is clearly a case of conflict of interest. As Chairperson of PAC, Namalomba should have been the first to realize that the ACB, which was created by an Act of Parliament to investigate, indict and prosecute corruption cases, cannot be gagged in any way.
The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee whose Chairperson is Namalomba himself is similarly responsible for holding duty-bearers accountable for their actions pertaining to public finances. PAC ascertains whether or not the money approved under the national budget has been used within the scope of demand.
It is therefore surprising that Namalomba should be questioning ACB’s decision to investigate the former President based on the facts that there was importation of 1 million bags of cement duty-free worth over K5 billion using his duty-free status. Former security aide to former President Mutharika, Paulosi Norman Chisale, former State House Director of Residences Peter Mukhito and former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Deputy Director General, Loza Mbilizi were arrested in connection with this matter.
Peter Mutharika’s Personal Tax Identification Number (TPIN) was involved in that deal. It is common sense that the owner of the TPIN should be questioned as well. What could be illegal about that? Where is persecution or harassment in this instance?
As stated above, the ACB was created by an Act of Parliament. By investigating Peter Mutharika, the Bureau is only carrying out its legal mandate for which it was created. The issue of harassment or political persecution is neither here nor there.
Under the Malawi Constitution, no one, not even the former President, is above the law. Peter Mutharika may have enjoyed some immunity when he was President of the Republic. He is no longer President of the Republic and therefore no longer immune. No-one can stop the law from applying to him or members of his family.
From a political point of view, Namalomba may have the freedom to say what he has said but from a legal point of view, his statement does not have any basis. Mutharika is not immune from prosecution. If the ACB sees that there are some areas, which need to be looked into as regards his use or abuse of TPIN, Namalomba cannot prevent that process from taking place just because Peter Mutharika is a former President.
Namalomba’s statement is a clear interference with the justice system because what he is implying is that despite that there is reasonable evidence of the law having been broken by the former President, Namalomba and his party want to use political means or public opinion to prevent the law from taking its course. That is purely a case of obstructing justice.