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Malawi's Chaponda insists ‘I will never, on my own, resign’: Malawi Parliament opens parallel inquiry on ‘maizegate’

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda is clinging on to his post as he insists he’s done nothing wrong in the Zambian maize misprocurement saga.

Chaponda has come under civil society organisations (CSOs) fire who have called for his resignation, saying he would “jeopardise the investigations” into the ‘maizegate’.

The two Parliamentary Committees—Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Public Accounts—separately made similar demands.

But Chaponda issued a media statement on Wednesday made available to Nyasa Times, arguing his involvement in the misprocurement was minimal as State-produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe was the one in charge.

 

“At the outset, let me report that, my involvement was minimal as the main buyer of the maize was ADMARC and not the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. As most of you, may be aware, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development oversees the operations of some parastatals including ADMARC. While the Ministry focuses on providing policy direction and guidance, the parastatals manage day to day operational issues of their institutions and they are answerable to their Boards,” Chaponda said.

 

According to Chaponda he led a three man delegation to Zambia on 8th May, 2016 where he held a meeting with his counterpart, the Zambia;s Minister of Agriculture who gave Malawi delegtaoon an approval to buy at least 100,000 MT of maize against the planned 300,000 MT.

“I came back to Malawi on 19th May, 2016 and I left the team to contact the relevant suppliers. Upon return to Malawi, the team informed my office that the trip was futile as they had identified only one supplier whose price was exorbitant, at USD395/tonne. As such, no agreement was
made.

 

“ADMARC then undertook a follow up trip search for suppliers. It was during this visit that ADMARC reported that they met a number of suppliers including Kiloswe Commuter and Courier Ltd and ZCF. However, the credible agreement was reached with Zambia Co-operative Federation (ZCF) to supply 100,000 MT of maize. Thereafter, ADMARC held discussions with Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to pay ZCF through a Letter of Credit (USD 34.5 Million) from PTA Bank,” Chaponda explains in the statement.

Subsequently, Chaponda said, Malawi government learned that the Zambian Government had banned maize exports and by that time ZCF had not yet started supplying the maize.

“Therefore, on 11th December, 2016, as a special Envoy of the President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, I led a delegation to meet the President of Republic of Zambia on the export of maize to Malawi due to the fact that, a contract was already signed between
the ZCF and ADMARC.

 

“I arrived in the Republic of Zambia on the same day, met the President of the Republic of Zambia and thereafter attended a Press Briefing conducted by my counterpart, the Minister of Agriculture in Zambia during which she announced that the Government of Zambia had approved export of 100,000 MT of maize to Malawi. I came back from that trip on 12th December, 2016. This was on the understanding that this was a Government to Government arrangement.

“I have also been informed by ADMARC, that no payment has been made to ZCF as the contract provided for a minimum of delivery of 10,000 MT before any demand is made to the Bank, to cash on the Letter of Credit. To date ZCF has supplied only 4,000 MT of maize,” Chaponda said.

Meanwhile, Malawi Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has opened a parallel investigations into the ‘maizegate’ to investigate corrupt elements in the matter after noting that commission of inquiry appointed by President Peter Mutharika may just be to silence the inquisitive Malawians.

 

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said the committee is doinf its own investigations “to get to the bottom of the matter.”

He said their first report will be issued on Januray 31, 2016 when the presidential commission of inquiry is also expected to submit its finding to the Head of State.

Chaponda has since welcomed the inquiry by President Mutharika “to investigate the matter at length.”

But the minister has maintained that he will not succumb to civil society demands to resign over the matter, saying those making the calls are jealous of him.

 

Admarc chief executive officer Mulumbe has also denied any wrong doing in the matter.
 

Tags:Malawi's Chaponda insists ‘I will never, on my own, resign’: Malawi Parliament opens parallel inquiry on ‘maizegate’
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