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Malawi Defence Force speaks on maize saga

The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has said none of its officers has been involved in illegal maize exports, which the soldiers are guarding against.

President Peter Mutharika directed MDF soldiers to patrol the country’s border areas to check against illegal exports of the staple grain.

MDF spokesperson Wilned Chawinga has since said a truck, carrying 300 bags of maize and which two soldiers escorted on its way to Songwe Border on May 26, was not involved in illegal trade.

He said the maize which belonged to Hobo Mwakatundu had a legitimate licence from Karonga Agriculture Development Division.

He said Mwakatundu owns a warehouse at Songwe Border where he wanted to take his maize to but sought clearance from Chilumba Barracks as the soldiers are manning the routes.

“Chilumba Barracks sought guidance on the matter from 94 Brigade Commander who allowed Mwakatundu to transport his maize to Songwe Border owing to the valid documents. Thereafter, the military escorted the maize to Kaporo Roadblock to present the issue to MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority] officials who gave Mwakatundu a seal. That seal was broken by MRA officials at Songwe and the maize was taken into Mwakatundu’s warehouse.

“MDF soldiers have never been involved in illegal externalisation of maize but there have been times when MDF [soldiers] escort maize to a nearest MRA point for authentication. We want to assure all Malawians that the MDF will continue conducting its activities within the guidelines that govern this operation,” Chawinga said.

When contacted, Mwakatundu confirmed that the truck was stopped en route to Songwe by MRA but was allowed to proceed after certification of his documents and wider consultation.

Chawinga blamed some traders who used to benefit from the illegal trade as being behind stories of MDF soldiers’ involvement in shady deals.

“Their aim is by all means to make the authorities think otherwise and withdraw soldiers from the border posts so that they should continue with their illegal trade at the expense of poor Malawians.

“We have not only managed to curb the smuggling and exportation of maize, tobacco and other agricultural products but also stopped almost all the rampant illegal trade that was happening in border posts. Once the situation improves and the ban [is] lifted, the MDF will withdraw accordingly,” Chawinga said.

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