The Attorney General’s office has filed a motion at the High Court in Mzuzu to vacate an ex-parte injunction a private individual and three civil society organisations obtained last Thursday asking the Court to suspend Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda to pave way for smooth investigations on the maizegate scandal.
It is not clear as to when the court will rule.
Attorney General Kelekeni Kaphale argues in his motion that the Court does not have the jurisdiction in a judicial review on administrative action andthat the application by the civil society organisatons “ does not disclose an arguable case or serious questions fit for further inquiry at a judicial review hearing.”
The maizegate scandal is a suspected corruption elecment where Agricultural Development and Marketing Cooperation (ADMARC) reportedly bought maize at K26 billion from the Zambian company and it is believed that Malawi could have saved about K9.5 billion if it had bought the grain directly from the Zambian government.
The Court has set Tuesday 17th January, 2017 for the initial hearing of the Attorney General’s application.
The CSOs that were led by private individualCharles Kajoloweka – are Mzuzu based Youth and Society and Church and Society Programme and the Lilongwe based Center for Development of People.
Their action follows Mutharika’s appointment of a commission of inquiry into the allegationsof corruption and malpractices into the Zambian maize procurement saga.
Kajoloweka and the others argue that failure by Mutharika to fire Chaponda will compromise the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry on maizegate as a line Cabinet minister, he may interfere with the investigations.
Justice John Chirwa granted the injunction on Thursday, effectively suspending Chaponda from cabinet and allowing a judicial review as the CSOs argue that Mutharika erred in his choice of commission of inquiry.
Chaponda, who was served with court papers on Thursday, faces contempt of court charges and possible arrest if he does not duly comply with the High Court order.
The judicial review application filed on Wednesday afternoon under civil cause number 01 of 2017, liststhe respondents as: Chaponda as first respondent, the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale as second respondent and President Peter Mutharika as third respondent.
While the applicants are: Charles Kajoloweka as first applicant, Youth and Society as second, CCAP Synod of Livingstonia (Church and Society Programme) as third and Centre for Development of People as fourth.
In the AG application filed on Thursday, the executive arm of government wants the second respondent, the AG Kalekeni Kaphale struck off the case because none of his decisions, actions or inactions are under inquiry in the intended judicial review application.
Further they want to Court to remove the three CSOs as parties to the application saying they all do not have sufficient standing in the case.
Meanwhile, law professor at the University of Cape Town in South AfricaDanwoodChirwa has applauded Justice James Chirwa for doing his job saying if a President fails to uphold the constitution he swore to defend, it is the duty of the courts to remind him of his constitutional responsibilities.
“The so-called commission of inquiry is a facade aimed at shielding the suspects from accountability. There is no need for an expensive commission filled by political cadres to investigate this criminal issue whose facts are easily ascertainable.
“There are qualified investigators within the law enforcement agencies who can get to the bottom of this within days, not even weeks,” Chirwa said.
- The Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM) supported this story.