Former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda remained under pressure from campaigners anxious to oust him from his position of vice-president (Southern Region) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but has said he is not going away.
Chaponda, the Ivy League trained lawyer turned politician—alongside two businesspersons Rashid Tayub of Transglobe Produce Export Limited and Grace Mijiga Mhango, who also chairs the Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi—were arrested in connection with alleged corrupt practices during the procurement of maize at the height of a food shortage crisis that gripped the country last year.
He is answering three corruption-related charges linked to the controversial procurement of maize from Zambia.
There has been calls for President Peter Mutharika to remove Chaponda from the position in DPP to send a clear message to Malawians that the party does not condone corruption. And DPP strongman Kondwani Nankhumwa, who took over from Chaponda as government leader in Parliament, is backing the move as he strongly believes it is awkward for President Mutharika to have someone suspected of corruption deputising him
But Chaponda said his court cases on corruption-related charges remain a private matter to him and cannot be discussed.
Chaponda said he is not leaving his DPP vice presidency post as the party’s National Governing Committee (NGC) has not discussed his issue “and I have attended all meetings.”
DPP spokesman Francis Kasaila also said Chaponda need “presumption of innocence” and will be allowed to hold his position as second-in command in the ruling party.
However, commentators argue that though Chaponda remains innocent until proven guilty, in the court of public opinion, he may be looked at as the poster child of everything that is wrong with the ruling DPP.
“Innocent or guilty, Chaponda—fairly or unfairly—is being portrayed as the microcosm of the leadership rot that the DPP has bestowed on the country and its resultant under-development,” wrote newspaper columnist Ephraim Munthali.
Blantyre-based political analyst, Vincent Kondowe, who says keeping Chaponda on the powerful vice-president of DPP is raising questions on the seriousness of the ruling party in the fight against corruption in the country.
“DPP is still recognizing him as the party’s Vice President for the South which is raising questions on how serious the party is in the fight against corruption.” Kondowe told Radio Islam.
“Here we have got a head of state who has been always maintaining he would strive to fight corruption and here again we have a governing political party which has been always maintaining that it would strive to fight corruption. Keeping someone who is answering corruption charges is an insult to all Malawians and a mockery to governance principles,” Kondowe said.
He however observed that it is high time for DPP to remove Chaponda from the position to send a clear message to Malawians that the party does not condone corruption.
“I believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty by the competent court but the party has no option but to fire Chaponda on the position otherwise people may conclude that the party’s leadership knows something hence they are afraid that if fired, Chaponda will spill the beans that he was alone,” he added.
Mzuzu-based political analyst Charles Kajoloweka, who has been one of the vocal citizens against Chaponda in the Zambia maize imports saga, said politically the corruption case against Chaponda “becomes an indelible stamp of corruption on the DPP as a party”.
He said: “So, it is up to the party to redeem itself from this indelible mark of corruption. It should also be a reminder to President [Peter] Mutharika to demonstrate that he means what he says that his government champions zero tolerance of corruption.”
However, Kajoloweka, who is the executive director of Youth and Society (YAS), said Chaponda’s prosecution also gives an opportunity to Mutharika and his party to stamp out corruption.
The former minister, who is Mulanje South West member of Parliament (MP), denies any wrong doing.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :