/ 28 November 2022

Malawi vice-president charged in corruption investigation

Saulos Chilima
Saulos Klaus Chilima is a Malawian economist and politician who has been vice-president of Malawi since June 2014.

Malawi Vice-President Saulos Chilima was arraigned and charged with multiple corruption offences on Friday.

This is the climax of a years-long investigation by Malawian and British authorities into a bribery scandal that allegedly centres on multimillionaire Zuneth Sattar, a Malawi-born British citizen.

Chilima is accused of receiving a share of $280 000 from Sattar, who allegedly sought to influence the award of lucrative government contracts. Sattar denies all wrongdoing.

By the time of his court appearance on Friday afternoon, Chilima was vice-president in name only. President Lazarus Chakwera suspended him from his duties in June, when the allegations first surfaced.

Addressing journalists and his supporters after being granted bail, Chilima avoided making any comment on the proceedings or his political future.

“I have nothing to say except that we will let the process continue,” said Chilima.

The future of the ruling Tonse Alliance is now in doubt. Chilima’s United Transformation Movement is a key member of the coalition. Supporters of his party thronged to the head office of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and later the courts, in a show of support.

Joseph Chunga, a political scientist at the University of Malawi and a researcher for Afrobarometer, said Malawians would be broadly supportive of the legal proceedings against the vice-president.

“Remember, a majority of Malawians, at least from Afrobarometer survey results, want politicians and public officials to be fired from their positions once charged for corruption,” he said.

Other senior officials are similarly implicated. The president’s chief of staff, Prince Kapondamgaga, has also been suspended, while a former police chief and a former head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau itself have been arrested.  

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.