Malawi’s Agriculture Minister George Chaponda needs to be probed separately on his part in the maize deals the country had with neighbours Zambia, a special set Commission of Inquiry has advised.
In its report presented to President Peter Mutharika on Saturday, the Anastanzia Msosa-led commission notes that the Minister had at some point operated in his personal capacity in several instances which collided with decisions made by Admarc as regards to the purchase of maize from Zambia.
“The Minister (Chaponda) personally asked Admarc to purchase maize from Transglobe, a Malawian company with maize stocks in Chipata, Zambia. This request was rejected by Admarc which had signed a contract with ZCF,” reads the statement in part outlining some of the roles the Minister played in the processes.
While indicating that Chaponda’s trips to Zambia were ‘necessary’ the statement makes mention that he (Chaponda) had suspicious dealings with Transglobe.
“Correspondence made available to the commission disclosed that indeed Transglobe approached the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia to obtain export permits through their agent Zdnakie Commodities.”
It adds: “The commission also established that when Hon Chaponda went to Zambia as special envoy, Tayub from Transglobe was also in Zambia meeting with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. This development cannot be attributed to coincidence. It raises suspicion in relation to dealings of the Minister and Transglobe. One can therefore not rule out possibility of corrupt practices between the two parties.”
Ironically in making an appearance before special parliamentary committees into the scandal, Chaponda indicated he was not aware Transglobe reprentatives met government officials in Malawi over the same matter.
In making the recommendations, the committee among other things ask the Mutharika government to consider probing the minister independently.
“The dealings between the Minister of Agriculture in this procurement process should further be investigated by the ACB in the manner Transglobe obtained an export permit from the Agriculture ministry in Zambia to supply maize to Zambia raises suspicions,” it reads.
This comes hot on the heels of calls made to Mutharika to fire or suspend the Minister who has since claimed he was only involved in the policy guidelines part of the deals.
A recently sought injunction depriving the Minister of his duties was vacated last Friday in Blantyre.
The deal involved up to K26 billion of money which Admarc admitted weeks ago to have borrowed from the PTA bank.
(We have more insights on the report in our next entries).