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Corruption

Investigation into maize scandal

by Raphael Mweninguwe

Nowadays

Malawi is currently facing serious food shortage with an estimated 6.5 million people in need of food aid. To alleviate the problems, the parliament authorised the national government to borrow $ 34.5 million from PTA Bank to buy maize. The PTA Bank is a multilateral institution that belongs to the regional organisation COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa). Things did not go well.

According to media reports, the government lied to the nation. It stated it would buy maize from the Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF), but it apparently procured the food from a private trader at a higher price. The parastatal company Admarc (Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation) is accused of buying maize from Kaloswe Courier Limited, a private-sector company, for a $ 34.5 million even though supplying maize directly from ZCF would have cost only $ 21.5 million.

Admarc actually bought Zambian maize, but the way the deal was handled made Malawians suspect that government officials defrauded the government. George Cahponda, the minister or agriculture, and Foster Mulumbe, the chief executive of Admarc, are considered to be the main culprits. Both deny any wrongdoing.

President Peter Mutharika appointed a commission to investigate the matter. The commission was headed by Anastazia Msosa, a retired chief justice. The commission found that Chaponda acted in a corrupt manner and called on the Anti Corruption Bureau to start a case against him. It also recommended that Admarc officials be disciplined for failing to follow the right procedures. According to the commission’s report, the Ministry of Justice was bypassed, for example. The commission argues that the price of maize was fixed, so suspicion of corruption is warranted.

On February 14th, the minister’s office was set on fire. People believe that the aim was to destroy evidence. Firefighters managed to stop the fire, but the office was completely destroyed. 

Malawi needs 206,000 tonnes of maize to feed its people. Domestic maize yields were poor because of drought and floods in the 2015/2016 growing season. Many farmers now depend on buying maize from Admarc or local traders, but they struggle to pay the price.  

Around 51 % of Malawians live on less than one dollar a day.

In the meantime, investigators from the Anti Corruption Bureau found huge amounts of cash in Minister Chaponda’s house, including $ 58,000 and 124 million kwacha. President Mathurika fired him. Chaponda, however, has vowed not to do down alone, but take others along. This story is apparently not over yet.

 

Raphael Mweninguwe is a freelance journalist based in Malawi.
[email protected]

 

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