Plans by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to hold a fresh nationwide protest in March against over the K53 billion claim at the Immigration Department by controversial businessman Abdul Karim Batawarara has dominated Malawi weekend newspapers.
Both Weekend Nation and Malawi News highlighted the news conference the rights defenders held in Lilongwe on Friday that they have set the demonstrations for March 20 – just four weeks before the much anticipated May 21 tripartite elections.
The civil society organisations (CSOs) said the latest revelation of K53 billion claim at the Immigration Department by Karim Batawarara through his firms African Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company is “uniformgate” and they want to voice out against escalating levels of ‘Executive thieving and impunity’ which must be denounced.
But Malawi News did not highlight the issue of “uniformgate” for fear of Karim Batawarara who brags to be bankrolling some journalists.
The two suppliers signed a K9 billion contract with the Immigration Department to supply uniforms but failed to honour the deal and are now demanding K53 billion, which is more than five times the agreed amount.
This has moved the coalition to ask responsible government agencies to investigate Batawarara and the award of the contracts under question for possible corruption and fraud.
The two–Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company-signed a K9 billion contract in March 2012 for uniforms they never supplied for five years only to raise the contract sum to K53 billion in 2017 – a sum which has the Immigration Department is protesting.
“This is further evidence that this government is corrupt. We have unresolved issue of K145 million involving the State President, his party and Zameer Karim and now we have this issue of K53 billion claim.
“We ask the government to cancel this dubious contract now or else we will seek legal intervention to have it cancelled. This is taxpayers’ money which must be protected,” said HRDC deputy chairperson Gift Trapence, reading a statement.
Government spokesperson Henry Mussa, who is also Minister of Information, said if HRDC has evidence of any wrongdoing in the immigration case should report Batawarara to relevant authorities than resorting to demonstrations.