Rotten maize saga: Call for Malawi Pres. Banda to act

A vocal human rights activist Billy Mayaya has added his voice to the growing chorus for President Joyce Banda to take action on reports that staple grain, maize in the grain reserves  were rotten.

About 30 000 metric tonnes of maize is damaged at the silos when Malawi faces a shortage of the grain on the local market. The maize was reportedly soaked with rain water following leakage of the storage facilities.

According to the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet), the problem that caused the maize to rot at the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) silos in Lilongwe was noticed three years ago, accusing government of negligence.

Cisanet national director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said during 2010/2011 harvesting season, some maize went bad in the grain reserves and that after investigations it was discovered that the silos were leaking, saying in some silos the ventilators were not functioning.

National Food Reserve Agency offocials explaining to President Banda about the maize situation in the silos when she visited earlier this year
National Food Reserve Agency offocials explaining to President Banda about the maize situation in the silos when she visited earlier this year

“Why did government fail to maintain the silos after the previous report,” queried Nkhono-Mvula.

He also suspected that State produce trader, the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) was failing to transport maize because they knew that it was rotten.

“We had maize in the silos and Admarc kept on telling the nation that they had logistical problems to transport the maize from the grain reserves to the depots but few days later they said the maize went bad. It is difficult to marry the two. Therefore one can suspect that Admarc knew the truth,” he said as quoted by Daily Times.

Mvula said it was depressing that government was spending billions of kwacha for the Farm Input Subsidy Programme yet it was failing to maintain the silos.

Presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane said government was investigating “how and why the problem occurred without being detected early enough.”

But right activist Mayaya told Nyasa Times on Tuesday that “civil society demands that the President takes immediate action on the NFRA rotten maize scandal.”

He said: “The explanations being given by both government and NFRA are unsatisfactory to say the least. There are a lot of questions that require immediate answers. The lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the issue is unacceptable.

“NFRA runs on public funds and the institution must abide by the highest standards as is expected of such an institution. We demand that the management of NFRA account for this gross anomaly. We propose that an investigation be initiated. Failing which we call for the  immediate resignation or dismissal of those running the institution.”

In an editorial comment, Daily Times on Tuesday also said Admarc “too should not be spared the wrath for the part they played in this created crisis.”

“All along the people have been duped the reason for this maize scarcity are only logistical,” the paper laments.

President Banda on Monday expressed shock and displeasure at the extent of damage to maize at the silos s Malawi crossed the border last week to source the staple grain from Zambia.

Speaking at a news conference held at Kamuzu Palace in the capital, Lilongwe, the President said she got a report about the maize damage and she was surprised with the extent of the damage.

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