Controversial businessman Abdul Karim Batawarara has gone to the High Court to obtain a “gagging order” prohibiting the country’s leading newspaper, The Nation from publishing details surrounding the K53.9 billion Immigration Department uniforms supply deal.
Malawi government challenged the K53 billion claim by Karim’s companies Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company, which, among other things, pegs a single uniform shirt for an Immigration officer at about K60 000 and in some cases a belt at K100 000.
The civil society organisations and political leaders have also called for investigations on how the suppliers arrived at the K53.9 billion claim from an initial K9 billion contract.
The now christened ‘Uniform-gate’ scandal was first exposed by Nyasa Times and the Malawi’s influential Nation Publications Limited (NPL) through its titles, The Nation daily and Weekend Nation have been following the running story.
However, Nation’s rival newspaper, Times Group through its titles Daily Times, Malawi News and Sunday Nation have remained mum on the matter , apparently Batawarara brags that he is micromanaging the journalists at the publication.
On Friday, Batawarara went to Zomba Registry of the High Court to obtain an injuction complaing The Nation has run a series of publications depicting him as a “corrupt and fraudulent.”
A sworn statement by Karim Batawarara’s lawyer Clement Mwala shows the business transaction referred to are subject to court proceedings and still pending determination and therefore depicting him as corrupt and fraudulent “cannot be justified.”
The court imposed reporting restriction order to prevent the newspaper from reporting the ‘uniform-gate’ scandal.
However, human rights activists have argued that the matter is of public interest and will fight for the injunction to be lifted.
Top government officials in Immigration, Attorney General and Secretary to the Treasury as well as representatives of the suppliers, Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company, were scheduled to appear before Parliamentary’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday to explain the claim.
But Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba in a legal opinion quoting parliamentary standing order 192 (1), said the top government officials could not appear before the committee because the matter was in court.
The government’s chief legal adviser, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, said the matter was concluded and wished “the subjudice opinion was matter specific.”
In its extended coverage, The Nation on Friday in an editorial comment, said Parliament , as an institution mandated to make laws in the opuntry, shouldn’t confuse Malawians, saying PAC summoned officials for an inquiry and in the next minute the Parliament Secretariat legal department stops the committee in its trucks.
The paper said the Parliament’s Secretariat to turn around and say there were some legal impediments it surely does not add up.
It pointed out that the issue is dominating public discourse.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :