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Anatomy of the Maizegate

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George Chaponda believed to have been born on November 1 1942, is a lawyer, career diplomat and politician.

He joined active politics in 2004 contesting as Member of Parliament for Mulanje South West under the United Democratic Front. He is a founding member of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rising to his current position of Vice President for the South.

On May 19, 2016, Chaponda was appointed Leader of the House in Parliament by President Peter Mutharika. He also served as minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development from 2016 to 2017.

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In December last year, Times Group broke a story which implicated Chaponda and Admarc Chief Executive Officer Foster Mulumbe in suspicious maize import deal from Zambia to the tune of K26 billion.

Chaponda pleaded innocence accusing the Times of running a hate campaign against him while Mulumbe organised a press briefing to demonise Times Group besides getting a court injunction to gag the media house.

Times Group never relented, riding on a wave of truth and an obligation to protect public resources from suspected abuse by public officers.

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On January 2, 2017, President Peter Mutharika responded to public pressure and appointed a commission of inquiry to probe the suspected abuse.

Parliament also set up a joint parliamentary committee to carry out an independent investigation into the issue.

On January 12 2017, a citizen and three civil society organisations dragged President Mutharika, Chaponda and the then Attorney General, Kalekeni Kaphale, to court after the President failed to fire Chaponda from Cabinet.

The Civil Society Organisations who obtained an injunction restraining Chaponda from executing official duties filed for contempt of court charges against the minister, on January 31 2017, following his decision to fly out to Germany on official duties. Chaponda sneaked back into the country, via Chileka Airport and was given a tight VIP treatment all the way into Blantyre City.

On February 8, 2017, Chaponda appeared before a joint parliamentary committee to explain on allegations of his involvement in the purchase of maize from Zambia. The minister denied any wrongdoing and described the parliamentary probe as a total waste of scarce public resources.

Just a day before the presidential committee released its findings, Mutharika lambasted Times Group and rights activists, saying that Chaponda was innocent. The Presidential Commi s s ion, however, found that Chaponda’s conduct in the Maizegate was suspicious and smacked of corruption. The commission called for further probe by competent State organs such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

On February 21 2017, the ACB seized $58,500 and K124 million cash in Chaponda’s house in Lilongwe.

The President fired Chaponda from Cabinet on February 11, 2017.

On July 19 2017, Chaponda spent a night on the cold floors of Blantyre Police Station alongside another suspect Rashid Tayub, Director of Transglobe Produce Export.

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