Some civil society organizations (CSOs), under the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) banner, have called on law enforcing agencies to arrest Abdul Karim Batatawala over the controversy surrounding the K53.9 billion Immigration Department uniforms supply deal.
Addressing journalists at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe on Sunday, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said they are concerned with government’s inaction on Karim’s two firms Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company which were profeterring by charging Immigration Department a single uniform shirt for at about K60 000 and in some cases a belt quoted at K100 000, sticks K142 500, ladies trousers for Immigration officers at K127 500 and woolen socks K19 750.
Mtambo said the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is “stinking rotten” with corruption and claims that President Peter Mutharika is fighting the vice are all “cosmetic.”
“ It is undeniable that the country is besieged by corruption which continues to rob millions of our people a decent future. We know that government either arrests small fish in the pond, cripples the Anti-Corruption Bureau from discharging its duties efficiently or drags the corruption cases in courts forever because the spoils of these corrupt deals are shared within the ranks and files of the DPP. These gimmicks are disgusting and cheap,” said Mtambo.
Government, however, issued a statement on the K53.9 billion Immigration Department uniforms supply deal , saying it will not allow “daytime robbery of State resources.”
In a statement released by government spokesperson Henry Mussa, who is also Minister of Information, made available to Nyasa Times, said it is the view of government that the concerns being expressed relating to the matter are “genuine”, saying authorities are therefore working tirelessly to protect the national interests.
The government spokesman also pointed out that the State is “vehemently opposing and challenging” the said claim in the courts of law.
“It is the unflinching position of Government that the said claim is dubious and aimed at defrauding the Treasury and State coffers,” Mussa said in the statement.
Mussa said all government agencies responsible for civil as well as criminal justice are coordinating their efforts in handling the claim.
But Mtambo told reporters that while CSOs acknowledge and applaud government’s stand on the Immigration ‘Uniform-gate’ scandal, they question why government is “taking forever” to effect arrest on Batawalala and his cronies for attempting to defraud government.
“ We need to send a strong message to all those who have sinister motive of defrauding govern by way of swiftly conducting investigations and effecting arrests if need be,” said Mtambo.
Karim Batatawala obtained a suppression order from the court against The Nation newspaper from reporting details of the ‘uniform-gate’ scandal.
The Daily Times while covering the news conference, opted to give the demand of Abdul Karim to be arrested a blackout.
The CSOs said they condemn in strongest terms Batawalala’s attempts to gag the media and stifle media freedom through court [and economic capture].
Opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera also condemned the dubious deal and demanded thorough investigations for possible fraud.
And estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima also rapped on the controversial K53.9 billion claim.
Meanwhile, the CSOs have called on the Malawi government to stop dealing with Abdul Karim Batawalala’s companies because he is a danger to the economic growth of the country.