State House on Saturday explained the alleged K145 million that a supplier deposited into a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account in which President Mutharika is a sole signatory, claiming the money was among donations deposited into the party’s headquarters construction project account.
In a statement made available to Nation on Sunday on Saturday, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalirani said Mutharika had no knowledge of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigations on transactions involving Malawi Police Service and Pioneer Investments—a firm suspected to have fraudulently supplied food rations.
He said Mutharika “has nothing to hide and is calling upon the ACB to thoroughly and professionally investigate the said business transaction”.
Said Kalirani: “The DPP has several other accounts in its name for party operations. However, the account in question was opened in 2015 and it is a DPP headquarters construction project account. The banking transaction in question happened two years later, in 2017.
“President Mutharika is the sole signatory to that account to ensure that funds in that account are used effectively towards the said construction project. The account receives donations for that purpose.
“All withdrawals from that account are used for the project and the party. His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika has never personally benefitted from funds in that account. All transactions in that account are documented and the party has receipts for them,” reads the statement in part.
In a thinly-veiled dig at Vice-President Saulos Chilima, the statement claims there are plots to scandalise Mutharika by a politician who is using “his surrogates in some churches, the media and other state agencies”, adding that the politician has been making “innuendoes and speaking in parables” to scandalise Mutharika and DPP.
Chilima’s press officer Pilirani Phiri said he could only comment after seeing the State House statement.
As the ruling DPP starts its elective conference today, Mutharika’s leadership has come under pressure following a leaked dossier which implicates both the President and the party as beneficiaries of alleged fraudulent dealings between the MPS and Pioneer Investments.
The opposition and some commentators have since called on Mutharika to clear his name over the allegations, saying the ACB dossier casts doubt on his commitment to fighting corruption.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson, Reverend Maurice Munthali, whose president Lazarus Chakwera has been critical of alleged corrupt tendencies of the Mutharika regime, said they feel vindicated by the claims of the K145 million paid into DPP account.
“These revelations are not a surprise to us at all as they are proving what our president, [Lazarus Chakwera] has been saying all along. It’s unfortunate that the president of DPP, Peter Mutharika, has been directly linked to the mess when he has all along been posing as a key player in the fight against corruption,” said Munthali.
People’s Party (PP) secretary general Ibrahim Matola described DPP as “a club of professional[s]– who have been plundering public resources” since the time of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
“They accuse us [PP] of Cashgate, but we did our best to bring all wrongdoers to book. We never shielded anyone. And here we have a leadership which is [allegedly] benefiting from Cashgate, how can he fight corruption? Let Malawians speak against this in next year’s elections,” said Matola.
But, in a telephone interview on Saturday, political Analyst Henry Chingaipe doubted if the scandal has the potential to dim Mutharika’s popularity and that of the party due to what he called a ‘docile citizenry’.
According to Chingaipe, this is not the first time a scandal of that sort has been reported without corresponding action from the citizenry.
“In our context, these revelations don’t matter so much because of the advantages of incumbency. So, if someone is in office, they have many advantages which limit the effects of these revelations on them.
“Two, we still have a very docile citizenry. As citizens, we have not yet come to a stage where we react to such governance issues to an extent that we take action to punish people that are involved,” Chingaipe said.
He, however, said opposition political groups can take advantage of the situation to conscientise citizens and use the power of the vote to punish DPP.
He said it is not surprising that the President, who openly and publicly admonishes corruption, is implicated, saying it is common knowledge that leaders use their positions to steal from the public.
Justice Link executive director Justin Dzonzi said the ACB dossier justifies calls to have the presidency stripped of immunity, to equally stand prosecution like the rest of the citizenry.
He described the leakage of the information from the ACB as a heroic act which has served the nation well.
“I think this is the most glorious and defining moment in our fight against corruption. The act of leaking the dossier is one of the most heroic feats which must be rewarded by national action.
“The issue of immunity is a legal question which must be tested before the courts. But this dossier puts to rest any speculation on who is behind the worsening kleptocracy,” he said.
About two weeks ago, Chilima, who recently announced to have quit the DPP, called for removal of immunity from the presidency in an exclusive interview with The Nation.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said it is time the country stripped the presidency of some powers to enhance accountability.
According to the leaked dossier, Mutharika is alleged to have benefitted from K145 million suspected to be part of proceeds of payment which ACB has been investigating.n