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Kamlepo, Chaponda fight over bribe claim

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Firebrand Member of Parliament (MP) for Rumphi East, Kamlepo Kalua, on Tuesday tussled with Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda, over claims that the latter received kickbacks in the dropped Brazil maize deal.

The government had earlier announced that it would procure maize from Brazil and Mexico, among other countries, but the decision was later dropped apparently because expenditures would be higher compared to other countries.

Zambia’s u-turn on its word to sell over 100,000 metric tonnes to Malawi after banning the exportation of the grain also compelled the government to drop expensive deals, reportedly because it would be cheaper to source the grain from Malawi’s western neighbour.

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On Monday, as debate in Parliament heated up on the purchase of maize by the government, Kalua claimed to have evidence showing that Chaponda had gone to Brazil where he had received kickbacks in relation to the maize deal.

This prompted Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, to demand that Kalua should provide evidence on Tuesday to substantiate his claims on “such a sensitive and important matter”.

Both Chaponda and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe confirmed that the government would not procure maize from Brazil and Mexico after opting for Zambia and Romania.

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When Parliament reconvened Tuesday morning, First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje ordered Kalua to provide the evidence as Msowoya had directed the previous day.

Before providing his so-called evidence, Kalua charged that he had in fact more information regarding Chaponda’s alleged underhand dealings.

“I have electronic evidence [on the Brazil deal]. I have evidence of him involved in corruption and there is more evidence to come,” he claimed before Mcheka-Chilenje demanded the evidence.

When the so-called evidence was presented, in the form of two documents, it transpired that they had no signature or any letterhead as is required of any official document.

Additionally, the communication in the documents was between former Malawi Ambassador to New York, Brian Bowler and Chaponda who was then Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

In spite of the development, most opposition lawmakers including their leader, Lazarus Chakwera, asked Mcheka-Chilenje not to dismiss the allegation offhand.

“I think there is a way in which we can ascertain the veracity of the documents. This house can subpoena people to speak under oath… There are committees that can look into this rather than just judging that the documents are inadmissible,” Chakwera said.

Some MPs demanded that the documents should be circulated in the chamber, but both Chaponda and Mcheka-Chilenje objected to the idea.

“Why circulate something that is out of context? The issue is about allegations that I travelled to Brazil and received kickbacks and so I demand evidence,” Chaponda said.

Mcheka-Chilenje later ruled that Kalua’s documents were out of context and dismissed the matter altogether while also ruling him out of order.

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