Malawi's top prosecutor told to resign

Time of article published Aug 10, 2006

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Blantyre, Malawi - Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika on Thursday demanded the resignation of a top prosecutor for withdrawing corruption charges against the nation's former president.

Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi last week unconditionally dropped all 42 counts of corruption, fraud and abuse of office filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau against former president Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi - the mentor-turned-rival of Mutharika - was also accused of pilfering US$50 000 (about R3,4-million) of government money through the Malawi embassy in Tanzania.

Wadi dropped the charges after Mutharika suspended the head of the anti-corruption bureau, Gustave Kaliwo. Wadi said as a result of the suspension the bureau had no powers to prosecute.

No reason has been given for Kaliwo's suspension, which came hours after Muluzi's July 27 arrest. There were rumours Mutharika was angered the arrest forced the suspension of a key budget debate in Parliament.

"I would like Mr Ishmael Wadi, the director of public prosecutions, to tender his resignation within the next 24 hours. In other words by noon tomorrow, Friday, 11th of August 2006, I would like to receive his resignation letter on my desk," Mutharika told reporters during the opening of an agricultural fair.

Mutharika said Wadi's decision to drop the charges "has done the country more harm than he realises."

"This withdrawal has destroyed my credibility as president against corruption but also the credibility of this country globally," he said.

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, was elected in 2004 as Muluzi's hand-picked successor. But once in office, Mutharika alienated his former supporters with his "zero tolerance" on corruption campaign.

The subsequent feud has led to unprecedented power struggles at all levels of government, although Mutharika has won praise from donor governments for his cleanup campaign in one of the world's poorest countries.

Wadi did not answer his telephones after the president's comments.

At 32, he became the youngest top government prosecutor in Malawi's history. He now becomes the second Mutharika aide to be dismissed in controversial circumstances.

Mutharika earlier this year fired the attorney general, Ralph Kasambara, who was heavily involved in bringing treason charges against Malawi's former vice president, who was accused of conspiring to kill Mutharika.

Muluzi, who has long been dogged by allegations of corruption, was Malawi's first democratically elected leader. For almost 30 years, the former British colony was governed as an absolute dictatorship by self-proclaimed president-for-life Hastings Kamuzu Banda. - Sapa-AP

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