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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bingu warns corruption ‘godfather’
BY Gedion Munthali
08:40:35 - 22 May 2007

President Bingu wa Mutharika Monday told the National Assembly in Lilongwe his government has discovered “a mafia-like godfather of corruption” in Malawi who pays legal fees for corrupt fellows and also bribes some members of the Judiciary to favour
him and the corruption “mafia” with court orders.

The President handed out a stack warning to the unidentified “godfather” and his corrupt equals that they were walking the last mile towards arrest because the law enforcement agencies of his government have finally gathered sufficient information against them.

“I would like to assure this august House that my zero-tolerance stand against corruption is now stronger than before,” said Mutharika, breaking the speech with a sip on a glass of water, the first of the six sips he took during the two-hour State-of-the Nation address.

“We now know that the corrupt officials operate under a mafia-style network. If you tackle one, he informs the network and they hide or destroy evidence. We also know that they have a mafia-like ‘godfather’ who finances their legal fees and has been able to corrupt some members of the Judiciary,” Mutharika claimed, stirring up a round of applause across the government benches.

The allegation added a new facet to his past criticisms that mercenary judges and lawyers had infiltrated the Judiciary and legal fraternity, and had ganged up to frustrate his government’s fight against corruption.

Chief Justice Leonard Unyolo and Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Michael Mtegha were among a cross-section of dignitaries that attended the occasion.

Some were heads of diplomatic missions and international organisations, government officials, leaders of civil society organisations, chiefs and party officials, notably from Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

There were 88 opposition MPs and 60 on the government side during the President’s address.

“But government has better information and we will soon bring their leader and the rest of them to book,” he warned.

Mutharika accused the National Assembly of contributing to ineffective justice delivery system in Malawi by sitting on critical proposed legislation.

“In order to enhance effective legislative framework, government tabled 30 bills before Parliament. However, this august House is aware that only 13 of these bills were passed while the rest are still waiting parliamentary consideration and approval,” he said.

To reduce the problem of lawyers in the public sector, Mutharika said government has this year alone recruited 31 legal officers, and therefore, “more effort would be directed towards civil litigation to avoid default judgments against government”.

Government has so far lost a number of cases because it could not defend them due to lack of lawyers.

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