Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda has commented on latest information implicating TransGlobe, a Malawian company in the dubious maize deal, rejecting claims that he used his ministerial powers to bulldoze the compnay to supply maize to the state prodce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC).
Malawi parliament inquiry committee which went to Zambia probing the maizegate, learnt Trans Globe was part of the deal to supply maize from Zambia to Malawi, bringing a third company in the controversial deal following Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF) and Kaloswe Courier and Commuter Limited which were previously known.
Reports are rife that Chaponda used his ministerial powers to draft in his long time friend Rashid Yayub of Transglobe Produce export to supply 50,000 metric times of maize alongside ZCF.
However in an interview with Nyasa Times on Sunday evening, Chaponda said he advised TransGlobe to deal with ZFC or Zambia’s Agricultute Ministry because it was a government –to-government deal.
He refused to give more details on whatever happened for the Transglobe to appear delivering 1,300 metric tonnes of maize, saying he would not provide such information to the media but at the inquiry.
“I don’t want to preempt what I will say during my first appearance at the joint parliamentary inquiry,” said Chaponda.
However, details gathered from sources close to the deal indicate that Transglobe was subcontracted by ZCF to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of maize that is why ADMARC was not aware of the deal because it was between ZCF and Transglobe.
Tayub confirmed he approached Chaponda because the technocartc in the ministry could not be located as they were all running around to buy maize.
The TransGlobe boss, who has already been questioned by Anti Corruption Bureau, said he did not want to cut corners in the deal.
He said although his company had an export permit from Zambia, it did not bring maizer into Malawi because of logistical challenges.
“When we realised the contract was between Admarc and ZCF, we had to stop,” Tayub said.
Joseph Chidanti Malunga, chair of the joint inquiry of the committees of agriculture and public accounts in an interview with Zodiak said: “What we have been told here is that the ministry of agriculture which is the authority which issues export permits for farm produce authorized ZCF to export 50, 000 metric tonnes and Trans Globe 50, 000 metric tons, making a total of 100, 000 metric tonnes.”
Admarc has throughout the probe maintained that it is only aware of a contract with ZCF to supply the 100,000 metric tonnes of the staple grain from Zambia.
Earlier officials of Admarc told the inquiry in Malawi that it had ordered 100 000mt from Zambia but only about 4000 tones were delivered.
The ministry is aware about Kaloswe not Trans Globe, said Malunga, there was no indication of Trans Globe in the Letter of Credit (LC).
Executive Director of Kaloswe, Isaac Kapambwe, denied assertions that two maize contracts [with his company and ZCF] were signed on the same day – 17 June 2016 as earlier indicated by Admarc.
Kapambwe, while admitting having signed a contract with Admarc, on the said date told the inquiry he only signed one contract with the Malawian state-run grain marketer.
He repeatedly told the committee his company never signed a contract with ZCF on this day to supply Admarc with maize.
Kapambwe said he was surprised to see documents that Admarc presented to the committee which indicated that both maize contracts were signed on the same day, saying such big contracts cannot be handled in a single day.
According to Kaloswe, his company interacted with Admarc through Grace Mhango, the chair of the Grain Traders Association in Malawi.
To his surprise, he claimed Admarc terminated the contract with Kaloswe and started dealing with ZCF, a company which was meant to supply Kaloswe with maize that would be in turn be sent to Malawi.
This left Kaloswe stranded as it had already entered into a contract with Admarc, he said, and such he has sued ZCF over loss of business.
The purchase of the maize by the Malawi government was meant to salvage a hunger situation that threatened 6.5 million people at its peak late last year.
Questions have been raised as to why Admarc bought maize at a higher price across the border when it could have sourced affordably locally.
Chaponda is currently suspended after Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other human rights activists sought a court injunction from Mzuzu High Court restraining the minister from executing ministerial duties, but the minister has been defiant and is continuing working as the minister.
Meanwhile, the CSOs are of the view that the minister must be fired for contempt of court order as he sneaked to Germany on official duties despite a court order restraining him from conducting official assignments.
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