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2007-02-07 11:59:00
Embassy Lilongwe
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DE RUEHLG #0101/01 0381159
R 071159Z FEB 07
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000101 




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: President Mutharika reaffirmed his
commitment to the country's anti-corruption drive at
National Anti-Corruption Day on February 5. In a speech
launching an anti-corruption survey, Mutharika proclaimed
his "position against corruption is even stronger today
than it was three years ago." The President also lashed
out at his political enemies, linking them with corruption
and urging Parliament to reconsider his choice for Director
of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The government also
reported on the ACB's results from the past year and
announced plans to develop a national strategic plan
against corruption at the well-attended event. End Summary.

"Corruption is Everywhere"


2. (SBU) In his speech President Mutharika admitted that
corruption is a challenge in all facets of Malawian
society, including the "government, the private sector,
civil society and churches and mosques." He specifically
mentioned one case, among others, in which the Sheraton
hotel chain had been deterred from investing in Malawi due
to a demanded pay-off from an unnamed Malawian official.

3. (SBU) Mutharika also used the platform to castigate the
opposition, accusing them of trying to block the anti-graft
campaign. The President singled out the Chairman of
Parliament's Public Appointments Committee (PAC) and
opposition MP Joseph Njobvuyalema, calling on the PAC
chairman to explain what the committee meant when it called
the anti-corruption nominee "qualified but unsuitable."
PAC has rejected a number of recent presidential
appointments, including Mutharika's pick for ACB Director,
in closed-door sessions while refusing to explain the
rationale for their decisions. Mutharika vowed to nominate
his ACB Director candidate--currently serving as the
Bureau's Acting Director--again and accused Njobvuyalema of
being "connected to corruption." Failing an explanation or
confirmation, Mutharika appealed to civil society to push
for his dismissal.

Corruption Baseline


4. (U) The government centered the 2007 National Anti-
Corruption Day around the launch of a Governance and
Corruption Baseline Survey which rated public perceptions
of corruption within various government institutions.
Among other findings, the survey, conducted largely in
2005, reported that almost 90 percent of Malawians view
corruption as a "serious problem" in Malawi, while 70
percent believe that corruption has gotten worse over the
past ten years. Nearly 60 percent of the public says it is
common for average citizens to bribe public officials, and

public officials say that bribes account for over 23
percent of their monthly salaries.

5. (SBU) ACB Acting Director Tumalisye Ndovi also gave a
speech in which he outlined the Bureau's successes over the
past year, including the completion of 358 investigations
resulting in 17 convictions, with 60 cases remaining at
various stages in the judicial process. Ndovi vowed to
leave "no stone unturned" in the war against corruption,
which, he said, has "no time limit" and urged Malawians to
come forward with reports if they encounter corrupt
officials. Additionally, representatives from the
executive, legislative and judicial branches of government,
civil society, the business community, donors and
traditional chiefs signed an Anti-Corruption Declaration
outlining their respective commitments to fighting graft.

6. (U) The ACB, which commissioned the survey along with
the British Government, plans to follow up the launch with
a series of regional workshops on corruption throughout
Malawi. The ACB then plans on developing a national
Strategic Plan Against Corruption, laying out the GOM's
strategy for combating corruption in both the private and
public sectors. Representatives of the private sector and
civil society also announced initiatives to combat
corruption, including a new business code of conduct.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bazuka
Mhango used his speech to decry corruption in civil
society, saying that NGOs were "public sector"
organizations who should be accountable to their
beneficiaries, not only to their benefactors and those who
make a living within them.


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7. (SBU) Mutharika used the day's event to try and put the
focus back on Malawi's anti-corruption campaign -- a
centerpiece of his presidency -- but an area where
commitment seemed to slack following last year's
controversy over the one-day arrest and questioning of
former President Muluzi, and the resultant removal of the
ACB Director for arresting him then the Director of Public
Prosecutions for dismissing the charges shortly thereafter.
As Mutharika admitted in his remarks, corruption, though
certainly less widespread than it was at the peak of abuse
under Muluzi, remains a major problem in Malawi. Large
scale corruption, especially involving outside investors,
hampers the President's ambitious economic development
program. Small scale corruption corrodes respect for
government and its institutions; as several speakers
prominently noted, Parliament and the political parties in
Malawi are low-rated in the corruption survey. Thus the
intention to redouble efforts against corruption and renew
the focus on the campaign against graft is laudable -- if
there is follow-through aside from donor-funded workshops.

8. (SBU) It is now clear that the politicization of the
anti-corruption program is complete. This is not to say
that the administration uses anti-corruption as a political
weapon; there have been no retaliatory or pre-emptive
arrests on trumped-up corruption charges, nor trumpeted
frivolous charges that mysteriously go away (This is not to
say there are no politically motivated prosecutions in
Malawi -- for example, the current treason case against
the Vice president and a half dozen more we could name --
but anti corruption legi{lation and institutions have not
so far been used extensively in this way). Instead, the
problem in 2005 was Malawi's paralyzed political system,
which seems incapable of addressing this question without a
long process of calculation among the leaders, in which
they seek to predict the effect of action on corruption on
the relative balance of the three major political forces in
the National Assembly, and more importantly on their
chances to assume the Presidency in the 2009 election. On
its party, the government has a "with us or against us"
attitude. Since dhe campaign against corruption represents
a potent political tool for the government, the opposition
is extremely wary of the effort overall. On the one hand
they do not wish to give Bingu any more tools than he
already has which could be used against them for misdeeds
real or imagined. Nor do the opposition leaders wish to
open themselves up to charges that they are pro-corruption.
This delicate balancing leads to lots of rhetoric and
innuendo thrown back and forth but little concrete action.

9. (SBU) At the moment, the focus of this calculation of
relative standing is on the anti-corruption bureau (and
other public appointments). In addition to the rejection
of Mutharika's ACB Director candidate, PAC has rejected
presidential nominations for Inspector General of the
Police, Director of Public Prosecutions, and several of
diplomatic appointments. Committee chairman Njobvuyalema,
who is a Malawi Congress Party M.P., has repeatedly
asserted that his committee has no/no responsibility to
explain its decisions, nor to open up their meetings to the
public. Mutharika has been equally stubborn, often
rejecting PAC's decisions and nominating the same candidate
again while appointing them to "acting" status, as with Mr.
Ndovi, or to a position not requiring parliamentary assent.
This has resulted in an increasing number of important
government positions at home and abroad going unfilled, or
being filled through questionable measures (i.e., extended
"temporary" appointments). With no end to the standoff in
sight, the quarrel between the President and the Committee
Chair should be a key issue during the next session of
Parliament in late February.