12 January 2017 Last updated at: 2:33 PM

Court has no power to suspend Chaponda – law expert

The Mzuzu High Court’s decision to grant an injunction stopping George Chaponda from exercising his duties could collide with the laws, a legal expert has told Malawi24.

According to the lawyer Ritchie Katsichi of Kalua and CO Lawyers , the court has no power to remove the minister from his position since the constitution allows only the president to appoint or remove a minister.

He added that after receiving the court order, it is up to the President Mutharika to decide whether to fire the minister or not.

George Chaponda

George Chaponda got suspended by the court.

The lawyer however noted that the country’s constitution gives more powers to the president which makes it hard for the Malawi leader to fire a minister as they work together in various fields.

When asked to comment on the issue, Malawi Law Society said it does not comment on issues that are in court.

The High Court in Mzuzu granted the injunction after an application by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who were worried with Mutharika’s failure to fire Chaponda over the maize scam.

Section 95 (2) of the Malawi Constitution clearly affirms that the President possess “the power to remove Ministers or Deputy Ministers from their posts” just as Section 94 gives him the mandate “to appoint Ministers or Deputy Ministers and to fill vacancies in the Cabinet.”

The court also granted the CSOs their wish for a judicial review of Mutharika’s refusal to fire Chaponda over the maizegate inquiry.

Commenting on the order for the judicial review, Katsichi said it is not undermining the president’s powers.

“The court’s decision to grant the civil society organisations a leave to go ahead and review the law that the minister has done wrong is not undermining the duties of the president as the order has only given a go ahead for a judicial review,” said Katsichi in an interview with Malawi24 on Thursday.

Mutharika stands by his ‘anointed successor’ Chaponda

When asked what he thinks about the Commission of Inquiry set up by Mutharika, he noted that such commissions have not been fruitful in the past.

“I think we did not need a commission of inquiry on the maizegate scam as we never know the president might appoint the people to blindfold Malawians in the end shielding the minister,” he said.

Admarc Malawi

Admarc was forced to hike maize price.

On reports that Anti-Corruption Bureau officials went to Zambia to enquire about the maizegate scam, Katsichi said there is need to wait for the results but such moves might just be there to blindfold people that something is being done about the issue.

He added that if the enquiry proves that Chaponda was in the wrong then the president has no choice but to fire the minister.

HOW THE SCANDAL BEGAN

Leaked documents showed that Admarc used a private Zambian company that may be more expensive than if the deal were government-to-government.

Admarc insists that it is buying the staple grain from Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF), a government agency.

According to figures seen in documents, Admarc has r paid $34.5 million (about K26 billion) for the maize, which is $13 million (about K9.5 billion) more than the $21.5 million (about K15 billion) it could have paid had it bought the maize from Zambian Government.

Malawi government obtained a loan of K26 billion from the Eastern and Southern African Development Bank (PTA Bank)  to purchase 100, 000 metric tonnes of maize from government of Zambia through ZCF.

Mutharika moved to appoint commission of inquiry into Admarc K26bn maize scam

This was the reason maize price was hiked from around K5000 to K12 500 per 50 kg bag to enable Admarc repay the loan.

At the moment, Kaloswe, a Zambian company which was used as a middleman in the maize deal has sued ZCF and Admarc.

Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited chief executive officer Isaac Kapambwe said his company entered into contract with ZCF for the supply of 100,000 metric tonnes of maize at a unit cost of US$215 per metric tonne at a total contract sum of US$21.5 million.

Kaloswe also signed a contract with Admarc to supply to the Malawian company the 100, 000 metric tonnes of maize the Zambian company bought from ZCF at the price of US$345 per metric tonne (total cost of US$34.5 million).

Experts continue saying this is one of the scandals that would make the Mutharika regime unpopular.

*Additional reporting by Joseph Dumbula



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