Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Thapatula Chaponda, has refused to resign after the Zambian maize procurement saga appeared to link him to the deal.
The civil society organisations (CSOs) have been calling for the resignation of Chaponda and suspension of State-produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe, saying their continued stay in their positions would “jeopardise the investigations”.
Apart from CSOs, two Parliamentary Committees—Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Public Accounts—separately made similar demands.
But Chaponda has scoffed at calls for his resignation .
“Why should I resign? Those calling for my resignation are just out to tarnish my name,” the minister told Nyasa Times.
Chaponda also attacked some journalists in the private media organisations, saying they were all out to on character assasination.
According to Chaponda, Malawians should not believe what the private media writes against him and government.
“I want to ask you to stop believing what some local media houses write, they are the agents of opposition parties and individuals who are against this government and me in particular,” said Chaponda .
Chaponda explained that he only went to Zambia on two occasions in relation to the maize import deal
The Minister said he first went in Zambia in May 2015 to discuss Malawi government intention to procure 300,000 metric tonnes of maize.
He said the Zambian government gave Malawi a go ahead to procure the maize.
Chaponda said he then went again in Zambia in October 2016 as a special envoy to the Malawi President Peter Mutharika where he was discussing with Zambian Government the way forward of the agreement since there was a maize exportation ban in Zambia.
“Zambia Government assured Malawi that the agreement was intact since it was reached while there was no maize exportation ban. These were the only times that I went to Zambia, we were given directive that Malawi should purchase the maize from suppliers,” said Chaponda.
Chaponda said the whole process of procurement was then left with ADMARC CEO Mulumbe who then identified Zambia Corporative Federation (ZCF).
“I a minister I am not supposed to be directly involved with procurement that’s why all the process was left to Mr Mulumbe,” said Chaponda.
According to Chaponda, Mulumbe then wrote Minister of Finance Dr Goodall Gondwe who processed Letter Of Credit(LOC).
“You can see yourself that am never involved in actual process here,” he said.
Chaponda insisted that he will not resign.
“I will not resign and they are just wasting their energy,” he challenged.
“When I was a minister foreign affairs they said I am rude and when I appointed as the minister of agriculture they lied about Mexico [maize import]deal, today they are talking about Zambia maize deal,” said Chaponda.
He said as the minister he is not allowed to participate in the process of purchasing maize from Zambia but ADMARC.
Meanwhile, following reports n how Admarc handled the procurement of the 100 000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF), the
CSOs also want government to set up an independent investigations commission made up of CSOs, private entrepreneurs, parliamentarians and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials to investigate the deal and report within three weeks from such appointments.
Leaders of the country’s key CSOs, including Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) are now demanding that the status of the purchase of the maize be declared to the public with all the remaining processes covered in camera..
Others are Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Youth and Society (YAS) and Citizen Alliance.
A privately-owned Zambian company Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited which played the role of middleman in the deal has since dragged Admarc to court for breach of contract, having already done so with the Zambia Cooperative Federation over similar charges.
Admarc reportedly paid about K26 billion which government borrowed from the PTA Bank for the purchase of the maize which is about K9.5 billion more than the estimated K15 billion it could have paid had it bought the maize directly from the Zambian Government.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :