Malawi’s president on Wednesday sacked the country’s energy minister, who is standing trial for multiple graft charges, according to an official statement.
“President Lazarus Chakwera has removed Newton Kambala from the cabinet as a cabinet member with effect from 11 August 2021,” said Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, the secretary to the president and Cabinet in a statement made available to journalists.
Chikhosi said that following this change, the president would assume all of the Energy Ministry’s powers, functions and responsibilities, adding that “all queries or matters requiring attention of the Minister of Energy should be directed to the Office of the President and Cabinet.”
Kambala was arrested on Monday over three counts of corruption before being granted bail on Wednesday on the condition that he submit his travel documents to the court, according to the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The former energy minister was arrested along with two other officials in relation to the award of fuel supply contracts at the state-run National Oil Company of Malawi.
President Chakwera’s chief adviser on strategy Chris Chaima-Banda and lawmaker Enoch Chihana were the other officials allegedly involved.
Before granting bail, the magistrate Florence Msokandiana at the court in the capital Lilongwe read out five counts: Three against Kambala and two against Chihana and Chaima Banda.
All three refused to comment on the charges to journalists outside the courthouse.
Chaima-Banda has, however, said he would not resign from his post as presidential adviser until dismissed by President Chakwera.
“I will not. It’s the people who are calling upon the president to sack me, so I will wait for him to make a decision,” he said.
Kambala is the first sitting minister to be arrested in over 20 years and the second to lose his Cabinet post this year.
In a crackdown on corruption, President Chakwera fired his labor minister in April and arrested 19 government officials for fraudulent use of funds meant to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The leader of the southern African nation of about 18 million was elected last June on the pledge to stamp out corruption in the government.