Members of Parliament (MPs) in Malawi under the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security jointly with Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday kick-started an inquiry into the procurement process of maize from neighbouring Zambia covered live on Zodiak radio.
The probe comes after civil society organisations (CSOs) sought court order to suspend Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security George Chaponda who has to explain the perceived mess, particularly on the use of a private company as a broker, Kaloswe in Zambia.
During the Tuesday session, CSOs through Human Rights Consultative Committee chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba made submissions and recommendations to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture to be considered in their inquiry
The CSOs shared documents to the committee including purported evidence of top government officials in Zambia for the maize deal.
The hearing also learnt that despite government disputing that $34.5 million (about K26 billion) was paid for 100 000 metric tonnes of maize to Zambia private company Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Ltd or Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZFC), a government agency, is “gross misrepresentation” as details of payment have been reported in Zambian media.
Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security Joseph Chidanti-Malunga maintained that the committee wants to remain neutral to give Malawians only the truth.
He said the first session was mainly about information sharing.
CSOs expressed confidence with parliament inquiry saying they will not trust presidential commission of inquiry as some members are bootlickers who have exhibited their bias already in public.
The maize purchase deal is currently marred with controversy regarding contractual issues involving the State-produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
While Admarc insists that it is buying the staple grain from Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF), a government agency, documents show that Admarc used a middleman Kaloswe.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya has said that the Zambian government has nothing to do with the maizegate as the Malawian government did not buy maize from the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) but from individual farmers.
Siliya said the only role the Zambian government played was to issue a permit of clearance, while the Malawian government came and identified a private agent to procure the maize on its behalf.
“We allowed for the export to Malawi because the contract was signed before the ban on exports was effected.
“The contract was signed in June 2016 under a government-government arrangement to help Malawi with the commodity following a drought which only spared Zambia in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC),” said Siliya in quoted reported by Zambian Observer.
“The Malawian government identified an agent, the maize suppliers and also negotiated the terms without any input from the Government,” she said.
She said after the Malawian government sought Zambia’s assistance; the Government provided them with a permit to import maize while the maize export ban was still in effect.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :