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CSOs press Peter Mutharika on maize scam

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Barely three days after the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament asked President Peter Mutharika to suspend Admarc Chief Executive Officer, Foster Mulumbe, and Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda, some influential civil society organisations (CSOs) have repeated the call.

They have threatened civil disobedience should Mutharika fail to act on their demands which they say must be treated as a matter of urgency.

The heart of the matter is the suspected scam involving the 100, 000 metric tonnes of maize that government through Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) procured from Zambia using a Parliament-approved loan obtained from the PTA Bank.

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It is believed that if proper procedures were followed— without engaging a middleman— Admarc would be selling the staple grain at a price lower than the current K12,500 per 50 kilogramme bag.

And as calls for Mutharika’s action on Mulumbe and Chaponda continue coming out, 11 CSOs have also demanded that Mulumbe should be suspended while Chaponda should wilfully resign to pave the way for investigations into the transaction.

The CSOs include Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Public Affairs Committee (Pac), Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) and the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep).

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Others are Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), Citizen Alliance, Youth and Society, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and Non-Governmental Organisation Coalition for Chid Rights (NGO CCR).

In a joint statement, signed by their respective Executive Directors, the CSOs further demand that an independent investigations commission be constituted to investigate the deal and report within three weeks from the commission’s establishment.

They have also stated that by copy of the statement, they are lodging a formal complain to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to carry out investigations on the case.

“[We also demand] that Admarc should immediately vacate the injunction sought against Times Media Group and that all actions against national entities and individuals discontent with this deal be withdrawn as this is a grave violation of Malawians rights and access to information,” the statement says in part.

The CSOs are also wondering why Admarc is being treated as a sacred cow in the whole saga despite the depth of the accusations against the corporation.

They have also demanded that the status of the purchase be declared to the public and ensure that all remaining processes are covered in camera.

“The President [should come] in the open to address the nation on the maizegate. The President should not hide behind the injunction obtained by the suspects if at all the DPP Government is not shielding or is [not] party to the deal,” the statement says.

Our efforts to get clear responses from both government and State House have not been successful. Government spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, told Saturday’s edition of Malawi News that he could not comment on the matter because of the court injunction.

Meanwhile, the CSOs say they are worried that Admarc is trying to cover up “its shady dealings” by restraining Times Group from publishing anything related to the maize deal at a time when Parliament just passed the Access to Information Bill.

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