A cloud of uncertainty has engulfed Zimbabwean millers who are at the centre of a heated dispute involving a US$22 million grain purchase and supply tender deal in Malawi.
Nyasa Times has learnt that the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) reportedly signed the now-contested deal with Malawi’s Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) without following laid-down procedures.
Information from Zimbabwe indicates that an agreement to supply GMAZ with 100, 000 tonnes of maize worth US$22 million is being disputed after it emerged that it was signed by Admarc board chairman, Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi and not a management representative as required by the law in Malawi.
The maize deal has sparked a heated controversy in Malawi, with Parliament questioning it.
Malawi President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera has reportedly engaged his Finance minister Sosten Gwengwe to probe the matter amid reports his Malawi is also faced with a shortage of grain and cannot afford to export although some government officials claim that there is enough grain in the country to feed the population.
However, indications are that the deal will sail through with deliveries expected starting this month and up to the end of July given that it had been cleared by Malawi’s top offices in Agriculture.
Contacted for comment, Finance minister Sosten Gwengwe said: “I am in IMF [International Monetary Fund] negotiations, please talk to Admarc.”
Dzonzi could, however, not be reached as his phone went ringing but unanswered as we went
Suspended Admarc chief executive Rhino Chiphiko declined to comment, saying: “I have been suspended from work and, therefore, cannot speak for Admarc.”
Chiphiko was suspended for allegedly purchasing an official luxury vehicle that is above Admarc approved budget and specifications.
GMAZ national chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara yesterday said the deal was above board before claiming that they were being challenged by a clique of middlemen in Malawi whom he said were in the habit of profiteering from tenders through inflating prices and demanding kickbacks.
“GMAZ met the Malawian Minister of Agriculture and successfully sought the requisite approval to procure 100 000 metric tonnes from Admarc Limited. GMAZ proceeded to meet Admarc CEO, chairman and other board members and successfully concluded the supply agreement.
“At all material times, the Admarc CEO was present, including at the signing ceremony that was done at Sunbird Vincent Restaurant,” Musarara said in an interview.
“GMAZ members have an aggregate annual revenue of US$12 billion and have the necessary wherewithal to transact directly with any supplier in the world. We see no commercial purpose to buy maize from Admarc via middlemen.
“We are aware that some unscrupulous grain traders are mounting a desperate campaign to soil this transaction. However, GMAZ welcomes any other grain traders with their own stocks to engage us (and) our contract with Admarc remains in subsistence and we are proceeding to execute it.”
This comes as Zimbabwe and other African countries lose billions annually to botched tenders often benefiting a few corrupt government officials and powerful politicians. Zimbabwe requires 22 million tonnes of maize annually, at least 18 million for human consumption and the balance for stock feed.
If the maize tender deal is cancelled, the development will spell doom for the country’s millers who are depending on the imports to stay afloat following a poor summer rainfall season that affected many grain farmers.
Zimbabwe’s poor grain harvest forced government to open the borders for registered millers to import 400 000 tonnes of maize.
Communications specialist, Journalist and entrepreneur Horace Nyaka said the chaos in the ADMARC maize sale deal to Zimbabwe is a direct result of putting politicians in positions of power.
Said Nyaka: “One of the cancers we need to eliminate quickly is the appointment of politicians as CEOs and Board members of parastatals.
“Politics in Malawi has no rules and no morals and appointing politicians into Parastatal Boards and Executive positions is killing our already sick economy.”
He queried: “Granted we wanna thank those that were with us when we were hungry but should it be at the expense of the country?”
Nyaka who grew up in Admarc as his father was an employee of the grain buying organisation said it is time we handle government business without political interference and involvement because politicians are only there to siphon money for the next elections or their bellies and for personal gains and interests.
“There is no honour among thieves. We need to change our approach the way we run government business,” said Nyaka.