Malawian legal commentator based at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, Professor Danwood Chirwa has weighed in on the operation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) raiding the residence of Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda where they seized suitcases stashed with cash – US$58,000 and MK124 million.
ACB raided the residences of Chaponda and senior managers of the State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
But the seizure of suitcases stashed with cash at Chaponda’s residence has triggered debate amongs Malawians on social media with many condemning the minister for running what they call “Bank Nkhonde”.
Chirwa, a legal expert based at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, commenting on the development, said the widepread expressions of horror at the discovery of a huge stash of cash at a minister’s residence are justified but the discovery itself hardly comes as a surprise.
“This particular individual [Chaponda] has committed or is alleged to have committed a litany of legal infringements including flouting procurement law, gross negligence in the discharge of his public duties, perjury, arson, corruption and money laundering.
“He’s cost the state millions of money, including entering into contracts that are more costly than is necessary and hence spending more on a loan secured at taxpayers expense.
“In addition, state institutions have been used to cover up and defend his criminal actions. A presidential commission and parliamentary inquiry both spent huge sums of public money on something that should have been investigated by institutions created specially for this purpose,” stated Chiwa.
The law expert continued to state that despite mounting evidence against Chaponda, the President Peter Mutharika refuses to dismiss or suspend him.
“We know that the President works at a chameleon’s pace, but even a chameleon knows when to engage the acceleration gear when it matters. We are left wondering: is the President complicit in this criminality? Is the whole ruling party and cabinet involved?
“What is most disturbing is that we are talking about a President whose main campaign platform for the presidency was based on his pedigree as a professor of law who taught at a reputable university in America. How can someone so educated and exposed condone, or be complicit in, such aimless and pointless public plunder?
“How can he govern a poorest country that relies on aid and preside over a government which is excelling less on service delivery than plunder of public resources? Does he have any kernel of decency?”
The graft busting carried out the operation as part of the investigations into the maize procurement deal by Admarc from Zambia.
Chaponda is yet to comment on the suitcase stash bust.
Meanwhile, Malawi’s flagship newspaper, The Daily Times in its editorial comment on Wednesday commened ACB for its raid and investigations as recommended by the presidential commission of inquiry.
“As ACB has been criticised so many times before, the body must be commended for its investigation yesterday and Malawians are hopeful that this will lead to something,” the editorial reads.
The paper further said it finds President Mutharika’s “indecisiveness” on Chaponda “quite appaling”.
It said: “Why is Mutharika ready ti soil his legacy for the sake of maintaining Chaponda in cabinet? Chaponda us being rejected by fellow parliamentraina and he cannot execute his role asa cabinet minister in the House, What good is in kepping Chaponda in the cabinet.”
The President has been asked to fire Chaponda “and if he si wishes, reinstate him if a due process of law clears him.”
The cash stashed in suitcases at Chaponda’s residence reminds Malawians of the biggest corruption scandal called ‘Cashgate’ which involved fraudulent government payments for services not rendered and for “ghost pensions” to fictional government retirees.
Corrupt officials pocketed the money, using it to buy smart cars and mansions — or simply stuffed bundles of US dollars and Malawi kwacha in car boots, handbags and pillowcases, hence the “cash” in “Cashgate”.
ACB investigators also searched the houses of Admarc chief executive offiver Foster Mulumbe and his director of operations Feckson Kantonga.
Mulumbe was sent on forced leave by Admarc board of directors to pave the way for investigations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :