Malawi: Coronavirus Corruption Results in Mass Arrests of Top Government Officials

Numbers are handed out to people who wait to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Ndirande Health Centre in Blantyre Malawi, Monday, March 29, 2021. Malawi is vaccinating health care workers, elderly and those with health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, using the AstraZeneca doses …
AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi

Malawi’s government has fired its labor minister and ordered police to arrest several other government officials for misusing Chinese coronavirus funds, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera announced Sunday.

President Chakwera said he had commissioned an audit to determine how a sum of $7.95 million intended for Malawi’s official coronavirus government response had been spent. The audit found that some of the aid package “had vanished, been misused, and left idle,” Chakwera said, according to Reuters.

“As I speak, over a dozen individuals suspected of committing the crimes exposed by this audit report have been arrested,” Chakwera said during a nationally televised speech on April 18. He added that members of Malawi’s office of the president and cabinet were among those arrested.

“There are no sacred cows,” Chakwera said. “If the finger of evidence points to you … you are going to prison.”

At least 14 people have been arrested in connection with the corruption scandal so far, Malawi police said in a statement issued Sunday. A Malawi immigration official and ten individuals working at district councils across the East African country are among those arrested, according to Malawi’s Nyasa Times.

Police in the southern Malawi city of Blantyre “arrested former director of information Mzati Nkolokosa, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services deputy director-general, Pedusiane Makalamba, principal accountant Keith Chikonda, and Blantyre City Council chief fire officer, Prescott Sailesi, for their implication in the … investigative audit report on Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] Response Funds,” the newspaper reported on April 18.

Kandodo allegedly used “613,000 kwacha [$776] worth of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] funds for a foreign trip,” President Chakwera said during his address on Sunday. Chakwera said that while Kandodo had since repaid the stolen sum, this did not absolve him of his improper actions, which meant that the funds were unavailable for their intended purpose when needed.

President Chakwera said elsewhere in his speech that more arrests in connection to the audit were expected in the coming days. He said Malawi civil servants would be forced to “repay stolen funds and that he would commission further audits into coronavirus-related spending and the use of funds in other areas like infrastructure,” according to Reuters.

Malawi police reiterated Chakwera’s statement, saying on Sunday that more arrests in connection with the corruption case are “imminent.” The police added that suspects in the case “would be charged with crimes including theft by a public servant.”

Malawians elected Chakwera to the office of the presidency in June 2020 after he successfully campaigned on the promise to curb government-level corruption.

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