Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) has condemned in strongest terms the death threats that different human rights defenders have been receiving following a court order obtained from Mzuzu High court ordering the Minister of Agriculture, Goerge Chaponda, to temporarily vacate office pending investigations into the alleged Maizegate.
In a statement signed by its Executive Director Gift Trapence, CEDEP said it is an open secret that a larger population of people in this country is facing hunger and would have therefore been expected that government would demonstrate seriousness and maturity in taking necessary steps to avert the crisis.
“As a measure to counter the hunger, government allocated some funds to be used for the purchase of maize from Zambia. This was a very welcome development and good news for all sane Malawians of goodwill. However, it came as a shock to the nation that ADMARC instead of procuring maize directly from Zambian Federation Corporation (ZCF) at a cheaper price, it opted to purchase the same at an expensive price from a private trader in Kaloswe Commuter Services.
“This move has led to the loss of a whooping K9 billion Kwacha. To make matters worse, government denied the same despite the evidence in documents. As human rights defenders, we could not sit back and watch national resources being wasted needlessly in fraudulent procurement deals amid extreme hunger and poverty being experienced by many poor Malawians,” reads part of the statement.
CEDEP further said ‘It is in that vein that we promptly called for the immediate suspension of the ADMARC CEO, Foster Mulumbe, and the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Goerge Chaponda, pending further investigations.’
“To our dismay, it was only the ADMARC board that complied with rules of natural justice in suspending the ADMARC CEO. President Mutharika, despite being a legal mind of international repute paid a blind eye and deaf ear to our demand, which we must say was in the best interest of all Malawians of goodwill,” reads part of the statement.
The organizations further said that the presidents inaction , left civil society organizations including Youth and Society, CEDEP and Church and Society with no option but to obtain a court order restraining Chaponda, the Minister of Agriculture from executing his duties to allow a fair process that can allow smooth investigations of the alleged fraudulent activities of maize to logical conclusion.
Soon after the court order was granted, different human rights activists including Charles Kajoloweka, Gift Trapence, Moses Mkwandawire, the lawyer who represented CSOs and many others have been receiving anonymous death threats.
“We find this very unfortunate, to say the least, in a democratic dispensation like ours where freedom of expression and dissenting views form part of democracy. We at CEDEP know the DPP does not like criticism. We still remember how the DPP youth cadets were all over town brandishing machetes in town.
“Indeed memories are still very fresh in our minds when after the mayoral elections a couple of weeks ago the winning candidates in Lilongwe and a member of parliament in Mzuzu had to go into hiding after allegedly being threatened by DPP youth cadets for the simple reason that they do not belong to the ruling party.
“Our message to the government, the President and DPP officials as CEDEP is they must stop practicing Machiavellian politics. Instead of leashing its powers on its critics who often times are very objective, it must act on stamping out corruption and bringing all suspects to book. We are not in one party era. We are in a democracy. Respect peoples rights,” reads the statement.
Further, CEDEP urged the general public not to relent in its efforts of holding leaders accountable for their decisions.