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George Chaponda’s office gutted

Mysterious fire on Tuesday destroyed Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development offices at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.

The flames only consumed the wing which houses offices of Minister George Chaponda, Principal Secretary Erica Maganga and Chief Director Bright Kumwembe.

Eyewitnesses say the incident started at around 11:40 am. When The Daily Times crew arrived on the scene, around 12:00 mid day, the fire was still burning.

At that time, a fire engine from Lilongwe City Council, was stuck in the mud as it tried to help in putting out the fire. A police anti-riot vehicle which was also at the scene assisted in moving the vehicle out of the place it got stuck.

Chief Secretary, Lloyd Muhara and Inspector General of Police Lexten Kachama were some of the senior officials who rushed to the scene.

“As the police, we are concerned with this accident. We are very sorry about it. As soon as we got the story, we rushed to see what has really happened. Since investigations are still happening we can’t say what caused this accident. As of now, we haven’t established the cause. Sooner or later, the cause will be established,” Kachama said.

He added: “We are thankful to the people around this place. They have helped a lot. The Malawi Defence Force [fire engine] has also helped and also the fire engine from Lilongwe City Council. There has been no loss of life but property has been destroyed.”

Kachama and Muhara left the place around 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Chief Director in the Ministry, Bright Kumwembe has said what has happened is bad.

“Our offices have been burnt. It is only one wing that has been affected. But office equipment is destroyed. We thank God that none of our staff has been injured. We were able to get out of the building in good time,” Kumwembe said.

The incident has happened at a time when a presidential commission of inquiry into suspicious import of maize from Zambia has recommended that Chaponda should be probed by the Anti- Corruption Bureau describing the minister’s conduct in the transaction as “suspicious, corrupt and inappropriate”.

In 2014, another mysterious fire gutted down Malawi Electoral Commission warehouse after the opposition Malawi Congress Party contested a narrow victory of a Democratic Progressive Party candidate.

Architects say that the fire may have weakened the structure of the building, costing millions of poor tax-payers money as it may necessitate demolition of the whole structure. The building was built by Malawi’s Founding Father, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, with assistance from development partners.

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