George Chaponda’s office fire raises suspicion
The fire that destroyed part of the Capital Hill building which housed several offices including that of Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, has raised suspicion on whether it was accidental or not.
A Commission of Inquiry into the procurement of maize by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) from Zambia recommended that Chaponda should be investigated for possible corrupt practices in the transaction.
Observers argue that the suggested investigation expected to be conducted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) would obviously seek documents from relevant offices including that of Chaponda and that the destruction of the papers could be a big blow to the probe.
In a statement released yesterday, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) says it is particularly suspicious that the incident has occurred at a time the retired justice Anastasia Msosa-led inquiry recommended that Chaponda should be probed for his role in the maize deal.
“The fire is also reminiscent of similar incidents at the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) warehouse, both of which were targets for investigations for alleged vote-fraud and corruption, respectively.
“While we can’t rush ourselves into making conclusions about the causes of fire, we find such incidents too suspicious to be ignored,” reads part of a statement signed by CHRR Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo.
The organisation says it is also worried that there have never been thorough, independent and whole-hearted investigations into such issues of national importance.
“CHRR is, thus, calling for swift, independent and thorough investigations into the matter and issue a report the soonest possible. In the same vein, CHRR is calling upon the president to fire [Chaponda] as a cabinet Minister to pave the way for further investigations into the role he played in the purchasing of maize from Zambia,” the statement adds.
According to the civil society organisation (CSO), by maintaining Chaponda as cabinet minister in light of his alleged involvement in the maize deal, Mutharika risks compromising “on rule of law as well as integrity that comes with the office of the presidency”.
Meanwhile, National Police Spokesperson, James Kadadzera, has said the law enforcers will come up with a report once investigations on the incident have been concluded.
Kadadzera also dismissed a report which has been circulating on social media, attributing the cause of the fire to an electric fault which resulted into a spark on a socket in Chaponda’s office.
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