May 2023 | Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers forcefully moved to refugee camp
On 17 May, Malawi’s police and immigration authorities began forcefully removing refugees and asylum seekers living and working in the capital, Lilongwe, to the country’s Dzaleka refugee camp. It came a month after the expiration of a government-issued deadline for their voluntary relocation to the camp. The operation is reported to have involved the arrest and detention of hundreds of adults and children, some of whom claim to have been beaten by the authorities. According to Human Rights Watch, the removals amount to forced evictions, and as such are unlawful under international law. The operation aims to encamp the 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers estimated to be living outside of Dzaleka and the Minister of Homeland Security has stated that the removals will soon be extended beyond Lilongwe. The UN Refugee Agency warned that the removals will add further strain to the camp’s already overstretched capacity and would ‘have dire consequences on the provision of critical basic services.’
December 2022 | Director of counter-corruption office arrested amid political tensions
On 6 December, the Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Martha Chizuma, was arrested by police in relation to an audio recording that was leaked in January 2022. The recording allegedly contains a conversation in which Chizuma discusses the efforts of certain churches, judges, lawyers, and government officials to impede her investigation of corruption cases. The President of Malawi has stated that he was not aware of the arrest and Chizuma was released on the same day. This arrest follows closely on the heels of the ACB's arrest of Vice President Saulos Chilima a few days prior, who is facing allegations of receiving bribes from a British businessman in exchange for government contracts. Thus, for many, this arrest is seen as a continuation of the ongoing tensions between President Chakwera and Vice President Chilima and their respective political parties.
November 2022 | Malawi’s Vice-President charged with corruption
On 25 November, Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested the country’s Vice-President, Saulos Chilima, charging him with taking $280,000 (USD) in bribes from British businessman, Zuneth Sattar, who is jointly being investigated for corruption by the ACB and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency. Chilima was stripped of his powers by President Lazarus Chakwera in June 2022 after Chilima was first implicated in the Sattar corruption scandal. The charges come at a time when a majority of Malawians perceive corruption to be getting worse and analysts have indicated that they are likely to be broadly supportive of legal proceedings against the Vice-President. However, some commentators have suggested that the prosecution may be politically motivated, and therefore signals not an improvement in Malawi’s fight against corruption but rather tensions between Chakwera and Chilima and their respective political parties, which are part of the ruling coalition, the Tonse Alliance. Chilima is not the only senior official being prosecuted for corruption, with a former cabinet minister and several high-ranking civil servants reported to be amongst the ACB’s recent indictees.
August 2022 | Mass closure of media houses underway in Malawi
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi, an advocacy group, raised concerns over the state closure of three television stations and six radio stations since June 2022 and the anticipated revocation of broadcasting licences for a total of 29 outlets by the end of 2022. Approximately 500 job losses are expected to result. The action is being taken by the media regulation body, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), due to the late payment of licence fees. The apparent exemption afforded to the state broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Forum, which is reported to owe outstanding licence fees, has led the Forum for National Development, a civil society organization, to accuse MACRA of selectively applying the law in a bid to silence media critical of the government - a charge the authority denies. According to MISA Malawi, the closures are unprecedented.