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CSOs in court for George Chaponda freeze

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An individual and some civil society organisations (CSO’s) have applied for an injunction at the High Court in Mzuzu restraining Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, from discharging his ministerial duties.

The applicants include Charles Kajoloweka, the registry trustee of the Youth and Society, the registry trustee of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia (Church and Society Programme) and the Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep).

Lawyer representing the applicants, Wesley Mwafulirwa, confirmed on Wednesday that the CSOs are seeking the court intervention on the matter to pave the way for investigations by the newly instituted Commission of Inquiry by President Peter Mutharika.

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“They don’t want him fired but that for the time the investigations are in progress, he should not discharge his duties. We feel if he is in office he might compromise things, so he will get back to office after the Commission’s investigations,” Mwafulirwa said.

He could, however, not divulge more details as the court is expected to deliver its ruling of the application today.

The application comes barely a week after a group of some CSOs recently asked Mutharika to suspend Chaponda and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe, on their alleged involvement in the dubious purchase of maize from Zambia.

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Meanwhile, the Admarc Board on Friday resolved to send Mulumbe on forced leave to pave the way for investigations into the suspicious maize deal.

A political pressure group, Transformation Alliance through its Publicity Secretary, Leonard Chimbanga, commended the disciplinary move on Mulumbe but argued that he is just a small fish in the saga. He joined calls for Chaponda to step aside for the investigations into the maize scam.

The suspicious maize deal was between Admarc and Zambian private company Kaloswe Courier Limited.

After the revelations of the questionable procurement of maize from Zambia, CSOs, political parties and the public pressured Mutharika to suspend both Chaponda and Mulumbe.

President Mutharika instituted a Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired chief justice Anastazia Msosa. The other members are Solicitor General Janet Banda, Public Auditor Isaac Kayira and Mike Chinoko who is the Commission’s Secretary.

Times exposed the import maize deal as documents show that Admarc used Kaloswe Courier Limited as middlemen to purchase maize. This means that Admarc purchased the grain at a higher price than if it could have procured it directly from Zambian Cooperative Federation (ZCF).

The documents indicate that Admarc bought the maize from Kaloswe Ltd at $345 per metric tonne up from $215 per metric tonne that Kaloswe Bought from ZCF.

In turn, Admarc paid Kaloswe $34.5 million for the whole consignment of 100, 000 metric tonnes which is equivalent to K25 billion up from the $21.5 million that Kaloswe Ltd paid ZCF which is equivalent to K15.5 billion. This means that government has lost close to K9.5 billion in the syndicate.

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