Refreshing news came out of the Office of the President and Cabinet this week when President Peter Mutharika promoted the deputy director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Reyneck Matemba to head the graft-busting body, at least until May 2019.
Much as the departure of the Lucas Kondowe might have been seamless, he left behind an ACB that for the past three years has failed to garner trust and credibility in the eyes of the majority of Malawians.
Kondowe’s earlier bickerings with his own deputy who he found in office have not been forgotten and could have possibly contributed to the derailment of several corruption cases, but the nation will never know.
But in Matemba, APM has seriously gambled. Elevating a career civil servant with a CV boasting of work as an administrator general and with the Legal Aid Department within the Ministry of Justice could be the breath of fresh air that the fight against corruption needs but on another note could spell doom for those who basked in the protection of powers that be.
But as one legal commentator said on his appointment, a director general who is also a lawyer and is coming from within the system could assist in making quick decisions in investigations and prosecution, something Kondowe failed dismally.
The nation will be watching closely which side Matemba will sway, to the 17 million Malawians or the powers that will have put him in the position of ACB director general?
Matemba’s appointment has brought to mind several unresolved issues, the major one being the uneasy relationship with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
It would be folly to conclude that the differences between the two individuals is merely personal because chances are high that the lofty position that Matemba has been elevated to will bring him into direct collision with the DPP.
In addition, the nation still has questions about the events that led to his abrupt recusal from the Muluzi case. What was the 11 minutes of the emotional outburst about? What has he not told us about the backroom dealings in the K1.7 billion case?
The nation remains in suspense about what made a lead prosecutor in the case to extract himself out of it at that crucial moment when there was remarkable progress in the case, just at the moment when important witnesses were about to take the stand.
What of the 13 files from the K236 billion forensic audit which touched on the current administration, prior to 2014 and now?
Malawians will remember the speed at which investigations and prosecution in the April to September, 2013 forensic audit report were done and it makes absolutely no sense that the same officials, ACB and DPP can fail to act on this particular one.
Without question, ACB’s independence is written on water. It is not there and unfortunately, Matemba has the unenviable job of changing these perceptions.
In the run up to 2019, corruption will be rampant as the political parties attempt to outdo each other with the financial muscles. Theft will happen, fraud will take place and standing against such forces will require the vigilance of a person with the strength of steel to resist the temptation to shield the powers that be.
The untouchables, those who shamelessly obtained indefinite injunctions against prosecution, will be watching Matemba closely for that chink in his armour once Parliament confirms his appointment.
It is to Matemba’s advantage that he has seen the ACB through the Cashgate age. By recusing himself from the Muluzi case, he has shown to be a man of integrity and unlike his predecessor, his career seems without blemish.
If there was an individual who is deserving of a presidential appointment then Matemba is the one. Whether he will be the best ACB director general the nation has yet to see.