UK based Malawian social commentator and governance activist Ahmed Dassu has called on authorities to arrest fired Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda over the K26 billion Zambia maize-gate scam and the seizure of cash at in both local and foreign currencies at his house amounting to an accumulated figure of over K200 million.
Following the seizure and refusal by Members of Parliament , especially from the opposition benches, to recognise Chaponda as Minister of Agriculture, on Wednesday President Mutharika relieved him of his responsibilities as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development which have now been taken over by the Head of State.
Government spokesman Nicholous Dausi said Mutharika removed Chaponda from cabinet “with immediate after he was found with millions of money at his residence yesterday”
But reacting to the development, Dassu, who is one of the people who championed multiparty democracy when he led pro-democracy hero late Chakufwa Chihana to come back home and challenge dictator Kamuzu Banda, said arresting Chaponda is not enough, an arrest with prosecution should follow.
“Now the law enforcement agencies must proceed to arrest Chaponda on money laundering evidenced bu the cash found in his house. Other charges can follow after the investigations are completed, otherwise people in Malawi will be right to assume the dismissal of Chaponda is a cover up until things coll down and that President Mutharika and Chaponda are in the scam together,” Dassu told Nyasa Times.
And the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) while commedning President Mutharika for firing the minister of agriculture “in sync with the recommendations of both Commission of Inquiry as well as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Chaponda’s alleged corrupt conduct in the purchasing of Zambia maize saga” called for authorities to expedite investigations into the matter and take the necessary and legal course of actions that will yield justice on the matter.
“For record’s sake, CHRR is not saying Chaponda is guilty. However, if the recommendations from Inquiry and Parliamentary Committee are anything to go by, Chaponda’s compromised credibility was beneath the integrity that comes with the office of the Cabinet Minister,” said CHRR’s executive director Timohty Mtambo in a statement.
Another social commentator Mzondi Lungu wrote on Facebook: “Sacking Chaponda is not enough: The president must apologise to all Malawians for paying a blind eye to the obvious facts and for defending him until the pressure was unbearable. He has a lot to explain.”
But Minister of Information Dausi said Chaponda is presumed innocent until proven guilty by competent court of law.
“Dr Chaponda is not quilty because according to the laws no body is found guilty until a competent court of law has found other wise,” said Dausi
“Malawi is now abbsy of jungle politics. We have to be in the confines of the law,” added Dausi.
However, a private practice lawyer Chimwemwe Kalua arged that Chaponda is “presumed innocent and not that he is innocent or guilty.”
University of Malawi political scientist at ChancellorCollege Boniface Dulani said Malawians must not just be content that the ACB raided Chaponda’s residence rather the citizens should be “following up and ensuring the investigations are concluded and action is taken if any evidence that the concerned individuals did something wrong.”.
Dulani in quotes reported by The Nation newspaper on Wednesday said; “But the law says no one is above the law so Chaponda, like any other Malawian, is not immune from being investigated and questioned and we don’t expect Mutharika to order the ACB to arrest him but what the President has under his control is sack his Cabinet minister.”.
The daily also quoted Edge Kanyongolo, a law lecturer at Chancellor College, saying much as he did not have specific details about the case, under the Corrupt Practices Act, the bureau has wide powers of investigations that include conducting searches and interrogating suspects.
Human rights lawyer Chrispin Sibande said ACB should question Chaponda on the seized millions in cash “ because the law provides that and they should be given the right to be heard.”
Chaponda told Nyasa Times that he has “clear concisous” and denies any wrong doing.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :