Scandal-hit Dr George Chaponda is nursing misplaced and extremely unrealistic ambitions to become President of the Republic of Malawi sooner than later despite his alleged involvement in the infamous maizegate scandal and other serious allegations of misappropriation of public funds and abuse of office.
I am not someone to say ‘never’ but it is incredibly unlikely that Dr. Chaponda would achieve his presidential ambitions because many Malawians regard him as Malawi’s corruption ‘demigod’, particularly following the maizegate scandal. Dr. Chaponda is simply a toxic politician that Malawians would hate to associate with.
A presidential commission of inquiry found his conduct in the controversial purchase of the Zambia maize in 2017 extremely wanting. He was suspected of using illegal tactics to steal public funds. During further investigations, law-enforcing agents searched the former minister’s house in Lilongwe and uncovered a lot of cash in foreign currency, which they suspected was illegal.
President Arthur Peter Mutharika fired Dr. Chaponda following the commission of inquiry report. He was also removed as Leader of Government Business in Parliament and Local Government Minister and Member of Parliament (MP) for Mulanje Central, Kondwani Nankhumwa, replaced Dr. Chaponda. Dr. Chaponda still retained the position of DPP vice president for the southern region and for MP Mulanje South West constituency.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) rained on him. After a considerably brief trial, the Zomba Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court recently acquitted Dr. Chaponda and his accomplice on all charges that the state laid against them.
However, ACB has indicated that Dr. Chaponda may not be off the hook yet because the graft busting agency seeks to appeal against the acquittal at the High Court.
Since his ‘suspicious’ acquittal (many observers suspect the court’s determination of the case was heavily flawed), Dr. Chaponda has intensified his political activities and machinations to reposition himself for the country’s presidency.
Sources close to Dr. Chaponda reveal that the sacked Agriculture Minister is a close friend of President Mutharika and that despite being mired in high-level corruption, the latter has appointed Dr. Chaponda ‘heir to the throne’. Sources reveal Dr. Chaponda is also President Mutharika’s top advisor.
Now that the courts have ‘acquitted’ him, Dr. Chaponda has ‘instructed’ President that when the ongoing budget session of parliament ends in a couple of weeks time, he must be reinstated as cabinet minister.
Chaponda is also demanding that he should be reinstated as Leader of the House. Recent media reports said a group of DPP MPs were demanding the reinstatement of Dr. Chaponda as Leader of the House. It is obvious the MPs are being used as pawns by Dr. Chaponda to achieve his leadership ambitions. Dr. Chaponda is an individual with high-level arrogance and has dictatorial traits, which have earned him the title ‘Bulldozer’ among the DPP faithful.
According to sources close to Dr. Chaponda, the trained lawyer has insatiable appetite for influence and he will not stop at nothing to achieve his ‘presidential’ dream through underhand tactics, including engaging mercenary journalists and media houses to clean up his ‘corruption’ image and advance a mudslinging offensive against any politician within and outside DPP whom he deems a threat to his ultimate goal.
But as indicated earlier, Dr. Chaponda has an uphill task to convince Malawians that he is suitable presidential material because he is simply not! There are both silent and loud sentiments among Malawians that Dr. Chaponda indeed had ulterior motives when he got involved in the procurement of maize from Zambia.
Being a ‘Bulldozer’, Dr. Chaponda does not qualify for the country’s top job considering that Malawi is now a democratic state where the rule of law and good governance flourish. The days of Bulldozers and dictatorship are long gone.
The ACB has announced it contemplates taking back to court Dr. Chaponda’s maizegate case. Whether or not he is guilty does not matter in politics because in the eyes of Malawians, he is a corrupt individual who was involved in the theft of their maize. Any sane political party, which cares about its image, cannot keep such an individual within its leadership ranks and allow him to make public statements relating to the political party.
Apart from avoiding giving the DPP leadership mantle to Dr. Chaponda owing to his corruption tag, President Mutharika must also immediately remove Dr. Chaponda as vice president because he is a huge political risk in light of the upcoming 2019 tripartite elections. Indeed, by virtue of his party position, Dr. Chaponda oversees the southern region, which is the bedrock for the ruling party. President Mutharika must ensure that the southern region is well fortified as DPP’s stronghold by removing Dr. Chaponda as its VP and replace him with a clean leader of good integrity and vision, when the national convention is held in June as announced this week by the party’s Secretary General Gelzedar Jeffrey.
DPP needs strong and clean leadership in southern region to effectively defend the region as its stronghold in 2019. Political parties must always understand where political power lies and respond with requisite actions however subtle they can be.
- Francis Masambo is a Blantyre-based social and political analyst
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