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Key findings
  • Most Malawians want to see swift action against government officials and business persons charged with corruption.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of Malawians say corruption in the country increased over the past year, including 57% who say it increased “a lot.”
  • Two-thirds (66%) of citizens say the government is doing a poor job of fighting corruption, including 52% who say it is doing “very badly.”
  • More than three-fourths (78%) of Malawians say people risk retaliation or other negative consequences if they report corruption to the authorities.

Since the reintroduction of multiparty elections in 1994, corruption has held a persistent and prominent place in Malawi’s political campaigns and government pronouncements. Like other presidential aspirants, President Lazarus Chakwera has talked tough and pledged zero tolerance for corruption (Aklilu & Agarwal, 2010; Sangala, 2017; Matonga, 2021).

Anti-corruption activists have welcomed positive signals, such as the appointment of Martha Chizuma – noted for her zeal against injustices when she was ombudsman – as director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the conviction of notable business moguls on corruption charges, the firing of some cabinet ministers, and the reshuffling of the cabinet to drop some ministers suspected of engaging in graft (Makossah, 2021; Namangale, 2021; Al Jazeera, 2022).

However, continuing reports of alleged state capture by influential business people such as Zuneth Sattar, his associate Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, and Abdul Karim Batawalala, along with allegations of corrupt practices by government officials and cabinet ministers, have sparked anger among civil society organisations and the public and raised questions regarding the government’s commitment to uprooting corruption (Chinoko, 2022; Ogunmodede, 2022; Platform for Investigative Journalism, 2022).

The most recent Afrobarometer survey suggests that work remains to be done in the battle against corruption. A majority of Malawians say that corruption is increasing and that the government is performing poorly in dealing with the vice. Most want strong sanctions against cabinet ministers and businesses associated with corruption. But more than half also endorse amnesty for corruption suspects who return their ill-gotten gains.

Joseph Chunga

Joseph J. Chunga is a research fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Zomba, Malawi.

Raphael Nedi

Raphael Nedi is a researcher at the Centre for Social Research in Zomba.