The graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has said they will seek new dates for the trial of George Thapatula Chaponda—the erstwhile Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Leader of the House —and two others in connection with the dubious Zambia maize imports following the end of Judiciary support staff strike which stalled progress in the case.
Blantyre chief resident magistrate Simeon Mdeza had set August 9 for the commencement of the case, but due to strike by the Judiciary support staff, the case could not be heard.
Three weeks ago, support staff in the judiciary went on strike to demand introduction of house allowances as part of their incentives as it is with magistrates and judges.
The strike has be called off and ACB boss Lucas Kondowe said they will have to seek for a new dates to be fixed.
“Now that the courst have opened, we will go back to see which dates they will set for us,” said Kondowe.
He disclosed that ACB officers were meeting oin Salima to “strategise” on the case.
ACB arrested Chaponda alongside Rashid Tayub, director of Transglobe Produce Export Limited—a farm produce trading company—and Grace Mijiga Mhango, a businessperson who chairs the Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPA).
The three were arrested on July 19 this year in connection with their respective roles in the procurement and importation of maize from Zambia last year in an attempt to fight off food shortage that had wrecked the country following a poor harvest.
ACB deputy director-general Reyneck Matemba, who is also prosecuting, said they want to consolidate the case of the trio..
Chaponda, considered one of the most powerful Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials where he serves as vice-president (Southern Region), was arrested albeit long overdue following forensic investigation of suitcases stashed with cash – US$58,000 and MK124 million seized at his house during the raid in February this year.
He was charged with the offences of misuse of public office and possession of foreign currency without the lawful justification whereas Tayub was charged with the offence of influencing a public officer to misuse public office while Mhango was charged with forgery and both pleaded not guilty to the counts.
Chaponda justified why he is cash-rich after they confiscated at least K166 million stashed in suitcases at his house, saying he has worked for the United Nations (UN) for over 20 years and has his own investment..
He also submitted his assets declaration form to ACB which indicates he hold many bank accounts in foreign countries where he worked for UN.
A lists of assets Chaponda declared as of February 1, 2017 seen by Nyasa Times shows that he has 20 real estate properties in Lilongwe, Blantyre, France, Luchenza, Mangochi, Thyolo and Chiradzulu.
Legal commentator based at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, Professor Danwood Chirwa argued that 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.”
University of Malawi political scientist Boniface Dulani is in record saying that the decision to fire Chaponda from Cabinet was forced on President Peter Mutharika who would have maintained the minister if he had his way.
Dulani said the maizegate—just like Cashgate on Joyce Banda—will forever be associated with the Mutharika’s regime.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :