Police in Malawi have arrested two former cabinet ministers and a former reserve bank governor over the sale of a state-owned bank. The government says the arrests are aimed at cleaning up corruption but the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says the arrests are a form of political persecution.
Former finance minister Joseph Mwanamveka was arrested Tuesday evening while former local government minister Ben Phiri and former reserve bank governor Dalitso Kabambe turned themselves over to police Wednesday.
Police say the three are facing charges of abuse of office and fraud.
James Kadadzera, spokesperson for Malawi’s Police Service explains.
“Honorable Mwanamveka and Dr. Kabambe have been arrested with issue to do with IMF Extended Credit Facility. Honorable Mwanamveka on his own also has been arrested on the issue to do with the sale of the Malawi Savings Bank in 2015. Honorable Ben Phiri has been arrested in relation to some corruption issues at the Ministry of Gender between 2018 and 2020.”
The arrests come two days after Malawi’s attorney general told reporters that the government is investigating the sale of Malawi Savings Bank and also issues that led the IMF to withhold its Extended Credit Facility or (ECF) to Malawi.
Six years ago, the administration of President Peter Mutharika sold the state-owned savings bank to Thom Mpinganjira, who is now saving a nine-year jail term for attempting to bribe judges who were handling a 2019 election dispute case.
Police spokesman Kadadzera says investigations revealed that Mwanamveka and Kabambe falsified some documents in an attempt to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Malawi was meeting terms needed to use the ECF.
He says as a result of this scheme, the IMF suspended the Extended Credit Facility, which has had a negative impact on ordinary Malawians.
The arrests are the latest in a string of cases that President Lazarus Chakwera's government says are aimed at cleaning up corruption.
In a statement Wednesday, the opposition DPP, the party of former president Mutharika, expressed shock at the arrests.
Spokesperson Shadreck Namalomba said although they cannot rule out political persecution, the party is anxiously waiting to hear the charges that have been leveled against its members.
“However [as far as] politics is concerned, you cannot rule out politics as well, because each regime has its goals, what it wants to achieve but for an onlooker it demonstrates commitment to fight corruption,” reacted Malawi University political scientist, Mustapha Hussein.
Hussein added the government should produce evidence against the former officials and pursue the matter legally to clear itself from allegations of practicing political persecution.
Police spokesperson Kadadzera says more arrests will follow soon.