The many faces of Simbi Phiri
New evidence shows that connected businessman has a curious citizenship, writes BOBBY KABANGO FROM GABORONE, BOTSWANA.
Businessman Simbi Phiri, who is at the centre of controversy in Botswana and Malawi, has a South African passport as well as one from Malawi, INK Centre for Investigative Journalism and the Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM) can confirm.
Malawi does not allow its citizens to hold a passport from another country, so it will be interesting to see if the authorities in Malawi will act against politically connected businessman who has admitted to funding politicians.
Phiri obtained his Malawian passport in 2010. It is not clear when he obtained South African citizenship.
Phiri, a chairman of Khato Civils, has identified himself as a citizen of Botswana, saying the country is a birthplace of his mother.
His spokesperson, Taonga Botolo down played INK questions on Phiri dual citizenship saying any reference about Phiri’s Malawian passport is “merely guess work.”
“Mr. Simbi Phiri has never, at any point in time, claimed he holds Malawi or Botswana citizenship,” he said.
However, documents seen by INK show that Phiri was issued with a Malawian Passport number MA034189 in September 22, 2010, which expires on September 21, 2020.
It is not clear when he obtained a South African citizenship with Identity number 6303046297083.
Botswana and Malawi do not allow dual citizenship.
A senior Immigration Officer in Malawi who preferred anonymity said Section 6 of the country’s immigration Act prohibits dual citizenship and that offenders could be arrested and have their passport withdrawn.
“In spite of being arrested and being fined or serving jail term of 18 months, the person will be stripped of Malawi citizenship and be deported out of Malawi,” he said.
With reference to Phiri’s case, the officer said this could happen only if he fails to surrender the South African citizenship. “It is purely against the Immigration Act but I know it will be politicised [in Malawi],” noted the senior officer.
But Botolo maintained that Phiri only holds a South African citizenship. “I wish to emphasise that he holds a South African passport and that through parentage, he considers Malawi and Botswana his homes, too,” he said.
Last month, the Malawi Immigration Department arrested Kassam Nurmahomed, an Asian businessman for holding Malawian and British passports.
The Malawi government awarded Phiri’s Khato Civils a US$500 million (MK400 billion) Lilongwe-Salima water project contract which the Malawi Law Society has taken it to court arguing that the project cannot proceed without the Environmental Affairs to furnish it with a report of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted on the project to tap water from Lake Malawi in line with the laws.
Phiri told the media that he has funded president Peter wa Mutharika’s governing Democratic Progressive Party as well as the main opposition grouping, and its leader, Lazarus Chakwera.
“You cannot do a project in an environment without knowing the technocrats, the politicians and the community, these are stakeholders…. We have to engage,” he was quoted by Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi, as having said.
The Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM) and INK Centre for Investigative Journalism, both non-profit newsrooms produced this story. All views are ours. Go to our websites: www.investigative-malawi.com, www.inkjournalism.org to see more of our stories.