Embattled former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda has recruited about 15 journalists from various media houses in the country, aimed at propping-up his spoiled image as well as giving him fair coverage ahead of his corruption court trials scheduled for September 14, inflicting major reputational damage on the himself following the revelations.
Chaponda, who is also vice-president for the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) responsible for Southern Region and member of Parliament (MP) for Mulanje South West Constituency, first dated the team about a month ago at Mulli Brothers headquarters in Chigumula, Blantyre.
During the meeting, each journalist pocketed about K80, 000 as a “starter pack” and they were promised to be on monthly pay-roll from Chaponda while others will be paid per story published or aired.
Nyasa Times sources reveal that the team which is being by freelance journalist Benedicto Mbewe , Zodiak’s Emmanuel Chibwana and Maganizo Mazeze has since presented a whooping budget of K20million which would be used for their various activities for a period of six months.
According to one of the members of the group, the team has lined up various PR activities to clean-up Chaponda’s muddled reputation.
It has also been tasked in creating fake social media profiles that will amplify attacks on opponents of Chaponda and run massive disinformation campaign.
“If I had a number of journalists on my side, Malawians could not have booed and hurled insults on me to the extent of calling me wakuba, so I want you to go out there and preach the good news about me,” Chaponda is said to have told the journalists.
“I’m sure I can trust all of you in this room, I don’t want to read about this meeting on Nyasa Times one day. “ he said.
On this Maganizo Mazeze stood assuredChaponda on their privacy on the matter.
“As long as you take good care of us, we are fully committed to support you honourable. I don’t see anyone in this room taking this out of this room,”said Mazeze amid hands-clapping and cheering from the rest of the journalists who attended the meeting.
In the taskforce, Times Group is being represented by award winning blogger Richard Chirombo and deputy business editor Taonga Sabola.
At MBC, Chaponda has roped in Simeon Shumba whereas at MIJ, Innocent Phongolo is their contact point.
Joy Radio will be represented by Wesylud Duntu Majoti Chirwa, barely few weeks after being promoted as head of news.
At Capital Radio, Chaponda has picked senior reporter Timothy Kateta while Linda Mzunga is from Power 101FM.
However, a senior reporter from the Nation Publications Limited who has been engegaged snubbed the meeting.
Firebrand opposition politician Kamlepo Kalua said he has learnt about the task force with “deep concern”, saying what Chaponda is doing is unacceptable.
Last week, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) lined up 22 witnesses to testify against Chaponda and two others in the case relating to the Zambian maize import transactions.
Chaponda and his alleged accomplices—Rashid Tayub, director of Transglobe Produce Export Limited and Grace Mijiga-Mhango, a businessperson and chairperson of the Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPA)—were arrested by ACB last month for their alleged roles in the dubious purchase of maize from Zambia.
He was charged with two criminal counts of misusing public office and possession of foreign currency without the lawful justification.
In the matter, there are nine lawyers with the State legal team led by Matemba assisted by ACB principal prosecution officers Macmillan Chakhala and Imran Saidi.
On the other side, Chaponda is being represented by private practice lawyers Tamando Chokotho, Madaliso Mmeta, Frank Mbeta and Jai Banda while Tayub has Jai Banda, Lusungu Gondwe and Madalo Banda.
Blantyre chief resident magistrate (CRM) Simeon Mdeza had set August 9, 10, 11 and 14 for trial, but it failed due to the Judiciary support staff strike that lasted for at least four weeks.
The case has since being adjourned to September 14 2017 after the defence counsel objected to the prosecution’s intentions to make an application to consolidate the case into one charge sheet.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :