Malawi lawmakers have taken a sudden U-turn and confirmed Martha Chizuma as the first woman to head the country's anti-corruption bureau or ACB. Lawmakers had rejected Chizuma for the post last week, raising accusations that the opposition scuttled the process for fear of being prosecuted for corruption during their time in power.
Seventeen lawmakers on the Parliamentary Appointments Committee attended a special meeting Monday to review last week’s rejection of Martha Chizuma.
Thirteen lawmakers participated in voting, while four from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party walked out in protest of the new voting procedure.
Chizuma was then elected to lead the ACB with 12 in favor and one abstention.
Humphrey Mvula, a social and political commentator based in Blantyre, says the boycott of opposition lawmakers confirms public views that Chizuma’s rejection last week was a calculated move to frustrate the fight against corruption.
“Otherwise, they had no reason to walk out. But these individuals may have been under strict instructions from their bosses that ‘we must not confirm Chizuma’ and possibly are afraid of Chizuma as a more determined ACB director and she will not spare them,” he said.
During last week’s vote, half of the lawmakers on the committee gave her low marks after an assessment interview, and the aggregated result saw Chizuma scoring just 14.9 points out of a possible 25, below the minimum pass rate of 17.
This caused a public uproar, and Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera called on lawmakers to, in his words, put political and personal interests aside and do their part in accelerating the change Malawians have sought.
Parliament later passed a motion directing the committee to submit a detailed report on why it turned down Chizuma.
As an ombudsman, Chizuma investigated several recruitment procedures in government-owned institutions.
She recently removed five top officials from posts at Malawi’s communications regulator, saying they were illegally employed during the administration of former president Peter Mutharika and the then-ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP.
Mvula says he thinks Malawians are tired of corruption.
“And then that gives recipe Malawians who are looking for this vice to go away. And Chizuma is such a gallant person who so far, has shown that she will do it. This is the time when most individuals will be afraid to indulge in corruption because as an ACB director she has an enabling law that will make sure that she will just not investigate but she will investigate and arrest,” he said.
Chizuma did not respond to VOA inquiries for an interview.
However, she told a radio station that her first job as ACB boss will be to restructure the institution.
“My first priority is look at the staff structure of ACB and to see who is where and if we have got enough staff. Because you need to have right people in right places for an institution to tick and that’s my experience from office of ombudsman. If you have wrong people it won’t work,” she said.
Government authorities say the confirmation of Chizuma will complement President Chakwera’s fight against graft.