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Malawi agriculture minister suspended over maize scam

Xinhua, January 12, 2017 Adjust font size:

The High Court in Malawi Thursday suspended Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, George Chaponda, from his ministerial role to pave way for investigations on the procurement of 100,000 metric tons of maize from Zambia.

The suspension follows a petition by four civil society organizations and a local resident to the court for a judicial review as to whether Chaponda should continue as minister while investigations were underway on the alleged corruption in the procurement of the maize.

But Malawi Attorney General, Kalekeni Kaphale, told a local radio Zodiak that the government would challenge the ruling because there was "fundamental error in the ruling because the issue was not urgent".

Malawi, through its agro-marketing agency, the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), procured 100,000 metric tons of maize from Zambia in what was supposed to be a government to government arrangement.

However, it turned out that ADMARC entered into contract with a Zambian trader, Kiloswe Commuter and Courier Ltd and Zambia Co-operative Federation (ZCF) to procure and transport the maize at 34.5 million U.S. dollars which most Malawians and local civil society organizations considered very costly.

Since the issue came out in the media, civil societies in Malawi have been calling for the resignation or firing of the agriculture minister and ADMARC Chief Executive Officer Foster Mulumbe to pave way for investigations on the procurement of the grain.

Malawi president Peter Mutharika instituted a commission of inquiry to dig into the matter and produce a report by January 31 for his action.

Chaponda recently made a statement in which he distanced himself from the procurement of the maize, saying his involvement was minimal.

Maize is Malawi's staple food and due to recurrent drought and floods that affected the country for the past growing seasons, the country needs food to feed over 3 million people who have no food. Endtit