Malawi’s President, Lazarus Chakwera, recently announced the dismissal of the country's Director of Public Prosecutions, Dr Steven Kayuni. Kayuni, an international law expert who had barely spent two years in the job, was dismissed following the findings of a commission of inquiry set up by the president to investigate the arrest of the director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Martha Chizuma, in 2022
Chizuma was arrested following a leaked recording wherein she accused top-ranking officials, including lawyers and judges, of sabotaging her anti-corruption fight.
Chakwera said findings of the commission indicted Kayuni as it uncovered that the chief prosecutor was the one who lodged complaints to the police against the anti-corruption chief. He said Kayuni was using his office to settle personal scores.
“I consider this act of unsound judgement by Dr Kayuni to be a breach of public trust, for it is a serious matter for Malawi’s lead prosecutor to have a moment of unsound judgement or a conflict of interest. So I consider this a great failure for Dr Kayuni and a great disappointment to me,” Chakwera said in a televised broadcast.
The Malawian leader said he had forgiven Chizuma and dealt with the matter. “... But I have never said that this means that no one else is allowed to bring a case against her for their own injuries, because that would be unconstitutional," he added.
The president has been criticised for sparing Chizuma who was equally indicted by the Commission, which recommended that appropriate action be taken to deal with the conduct of the ACB boss regarding the leaked audio.
Commenting on the issue, President of The Malawi Law Society, Patrick Mpaka, opined that President Chakwera’s decision could be challenged on constitutional grounds. Section 102 of the Constitution provides that a person may be removed from the office of the DPP if he or she is incompetent, compromised, incapacitated or has attained retirement age.
“If Kayuni accepts the position taken by the President, that’s fine. If he does not, there may be an interesting situation because unsound judgement in the management of a personal grievance may not necessarily entail incompetence or compromise in exercise of duties of office,” Mpaka told Nation newspaper.
Another lawyer, Jai Banda, noted that while the president has the prerogative to sack the DPP, Kayuni could either have been suspended or redeployed. “His reason that this was something personal and that there was conflict of interest, perhaps, the President might have just suspended Kayuni or sent him to another department instead of actually dismissing him from the civil service just like that,” Banda said.
The Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) have maintained that the Chakwera-led government should not sweep issues of the leaked audio under the carpet. "In that audio, she made allegations that some judges are corrupt, so this can have an impact on cases that ACB takes to court. How do you work with corrupt individuals?” asked HRCC Board Chairperson, Robert Mkwezalamba.
Kayuni did not respond to Africa Legal’s request for comment.
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