Malawi arson a scheme to hide maize scandal – Chishimba

Malawi arson a scheme to hide maize scandal – Chishimba

By Mwape Mbwelela

THE burning of offices for the Malawian Minister of Agriculture and his permanent secretary is a well-orchestrated scheme to destroy valuable evidence in the maize scandal, says Saviour Chishimba.

A fire on Tuesday destroyed offices of the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr George Chaponda, his principal secretary Erica Maganga and chief director Bright Kumwembe at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.

The fire suspiciously consumed the wing which houses the offices of three top officials who had information of the transaction between the Malawian and Zambian government regarding the export of maize to the neighbouring country.

The Malawian ‘maizegate’ involves the export of 100,000 metric tonnes of maize worth MWK26 billion to Malawi using the Zambia Cooperative Federation.

Malawi NGOs and church groups have taken their government officials to task following over-payments of about MWK9.5 billion to ZCF for the maize.

They have also taken President Peter Mutharika, Dr Chaponda and the Attorney General to court over the deal which they say has made the government lose a huge amount of money.

Commenting on the fire, Chishimba said the desperate act was clear sabotage by the two corrupt regimes calculated to escape possible trial and conviction in the on-going criminal investigations on the maize saga.

“We in the United Progressive People (UPP) have received the news of the fire which has gutted the offices of the minister and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in Malawi with great shock and surprise,” Chishimba said.

“Our position is informed by the legal test of what every ‘reasonable man’ would conclude and we hereby authoritatively believe that this act of arson is a deliberate and well orchestrated scheme by the corrupt regimes, through their private or state agents, to destroy valuable evidence in the on-going criminal investigations on the maize saga.”

He said it was not uncommon for corrupt regimes to resort to desperate acts of sabotage with a view to escaping possible trial and conviction.

“Over the past decade, the offices of the Zambia National Tender Board (ZNTB) were gutted by fire at a time that one minister and other senior government officials were being investigated for plunder,” Chishimba recalled.

“The burning to ashes of critical evidence resulted in the cessation of criminal investigations. African leaders have aborted serious investigations and revelations of corrupt practices by either assassinating whistle blowers or causing the disappearance of records at pre-trial and during trial stages.”

He said Zambia lost one of its most talented and intelligent young politicians, Paul Tembo, a day before his scheduled submission of evidence during the sittings of the tribunal which was appointed to probe ministers for their involvement in the cashgate scandal.

“In this case, ministers allegedly drew about K2 billion from the National Assembly to fund the MMD convention,” Chishimba further recalled.

“Likewise, Malawi lost a Mr Bakuwa of ADMARC mysteriously within days after he refused to have backdoor dealings with ZCF. Immediately after his death, all the illegal transactions on the Malawian and Zambian sides took place and today these deals are at the core of the maizegate mystery.”

He challenged Malawian President Peter Mutharika and President Edgar Lungu to clear their names in the said scandal.

In his submission to the Malawian inquiry commission, Chishimba had expressed serious concern that the direct involvement of two presidents in the deal would render the whole exercise academic.

“Today, the continent of Africa, which has been plagued with bad leadership and corruption, has witnessed a new twist in a case that has attracted international interest,” Chishimba stated.

“The case in point is that after a few days of the presentation of the Commission of Inquiry report to President Arthur Peter Mutharika, the office of the Minister of Agriculture in Malawi has suffered the same fate of ZNTB (as it was called then). Naturally, every reasonable man would expect the ongoing investigations by the ACC (Zambia) and ACB (Malawi) to end in the same way that the investigations of senior government officials ended, for lack of evidence, when ZNTB was gutted.”

He urged the two presidents to take action against officials in their governments.

Chishimba further challenged President Lungu to explain to Zambians how a company called Zdenakie Commodities Ltd came into the deal.

“In our submission, we prayed that while the two presidents enjoyed the temporary earthly immunity for now, let them take punitive actions against officials who they clearly used to advance corrupt practices,” Chishimba stated.

“The directors of this company (Zdenakie) which came into play at the eleventh hour must be known. This revelation will prove that UPP does not provide checks and balances through rumours, we deal with hard evidence either documentary, video and audio. In the same breath, President Arthur P. Mutharika must explain to Malawians how Transglobe came into the deal. Hon Dora Siliya and Dr George Chaponda must equally explain to our two peoples how they sealed these deals under the aegis of the two presidents.”

Chishimba stated that people would be shocked but not surprised if the ministers and public officers who played a role in the maize scandal were maintained in the two governments.

“African leaders who plunder the poor people’s resources do it through their subordinates and when scandals are exposed, they (leaders) feel duty bound to defend the corruption of their lieutenants,” stated Chishimba.

“The report of the Commission is unequivocal and stands on solid grounds in terms of findings and recommendations. We reminded commissioners that they travelled to Zambia on the blood and sweat of the people of Malawi, who roam the streets every day in search of a livelihood. In this context, we appealed to them not to submit a report which would please the appointing authority.”