Agriculture Minister Dr George Chaponda gave his seal of approval that it is alright for poor Malawians to buy maize at K12,500 per 50 kilogramme bag.
Admarc is a parastatal that reports to the Ministry of Agriculture which is headed by Chaponda.
When Parliament was in session in Lilongwe three weeks ago, opposition MPs pleaded, rolled on the floor and begged that government considers lowering the price of maize at Admarc.
Chaponda was at his vintage best, eloquently telling off the MPs that none of what they were asking for on behalf of their people will happen. Maize would remain pegged at K12,500, he declared.
Chaponda took a trip to Zambia just before Parliament and he called himself a special envoy of President Peter Mutharika to his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu. The issue was once again maize.
Today the whole maize deal has imploded. Malawians who wondered how private traders can sell maize cheaper than Admarc have their answer.
Admarc lied to the nation that it is buying maize from the Zambian government through a parastatal. It turns out through revelations by Times Group that the maize was bought through a middleman hence the exorbitant price it is being sold in Admarc markets.
A majority of Malawians live below the poverty line of less than K1000 a day. Maize is the staple food in this country. Any sensible Minister of Agriculture whose primary responsibility is to feed the country cannot accept that maize should be beyond the reach of the majority of Malawians by allowing it to be sold at such an exorbitant cost during a year of hunger and deprivation.
Chaponda did and he never wavered. When told that private traders are selling maize cheaper than Admarc, he arrogantly and happily told off Malawians that the traders
will run out of stock which will make them flock back to Admarc.
At this stage we do not know the motives that propelled Chaponda to think in the manner he did. We do not know whether there is a personal gain that he made out of the maize deal.
Yet his behavior is suspect and not fitting of a competent Agriculture Minister. He argues that he was not involved in the procurement of the maize and therefore he sees no reason why he should go.
But Chaponda clearly provided oversight in this matter. He gave the process a seal of approval. He saw no problem in selling maize to poor Malawians at an exorbitant rate.
If he did not take part in procurement of the maize, what was he doing in Zambia with President Edgar Lungu? Did he go there to pick his nose or discuss weather with the Zambian leader?
Any procurement of maize that makes it beyond the reach of Malawians is bad and should not happen.
This is a year of hunger and if anything government through the Ministry of Agriculture, should have ensured that maize be within the reach of all Malawians.
This is what a responsible minister would do in a time of crisis that we are.
Chaponda did not do the above but the opposite. He talked down hungry Malawians. Together with Admarc they have bungled and the results are that Malawians have suffered hunger.
He cannot say he is not going to resign. He must because he is an incompetent minister.
This is not the first time that Chaponda has run nuts over public affairs. He embarrassed this country at the height of the Bingu wa Mutharika government intoxication with churning out bad laws after the 2009 election when he said government is in the process of promulgating a law that would ban breaking wind in the public to preserve the environment.
It later turned out that was his total misunderstanding of the law that was being made but the damage was done and we went down in history as a people who are overzealous and stupid in the eyes of the international community.
Today Chaponda is at it again, messing our lives by not reigning in on Admarc but backing their madness of selling maize at K12,500 per 50 kg bag to poor people.
Together with Admarc boss Foster Mulumbe, they must resign. Their offices are not their personal estates but belong to the people of Malawi who they have let down.
- The article appeared on ‘Hitting the Nail’ column in Malawi News