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Parliamentary Maizegate inquiry downfall

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This was the least expected.

The parliamentary inquiry on Maizegate was the most trusted ever; not only because it comprised honourable Members of Parliament (MPs), the real representatives of the people out there, but they held their inquiry in open, live on Times Radio and Zodiak.

This was the real test for democracy, taking Parliament right in the homes of the people, the voters, who are the bosses of parliamentarians.

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Now all that trust, all that hard work, all that patriotism and all that integrity the inquiry displayed and showed to Malawians may be overshadowed by infighting within the inquiry officials.

The infighting can spell doom and the end of the inquiry though its mandate is nearing the end too.

For those who do not know what I am saying, well, Smoke and Thunder did its own investigations; its reporters were all over the place to get crucial information for you so that you enjoy reading the column as you do with The Daily Times.

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The issue is that Parliament set up the inquiry comprising five members from the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and another five members from the parliamentary Agriculture Committee.

Parliament did this in accordance with Standing Order 154 which dictates that 10 MPs shall be the working number in such an inquiry.

From the Public Accounts Committee came Kamlepo Kalua, Kusamba Dzonzi, Tarsizio Gowero, Pemba Msosa and Frank Mwenifumbo.

From the Agriculture Committee came Joseph Chidanti Malunga, Richard Chimwendo-Banda, Frank Mphande, John Chikalimba and James Munthali.

The purpose of the inquiry was to look into how Admarc purchased maize from Zambia after reports of suspicious dealings by Agriculture Minister George Chaponda and Admarc CEO Foster Mulumbe.

I think I have given a concrete background to the whole issue and now let me move to the next stage, what has caused the whole infighting and between who and who.

Eight MPs left on Monday morning, by bus, to Zambia where they are expected to make further investigations on the matter.

I am saying eight members, yes; you got it right, out of the 10, eight made it to Zambia.

Chikalimba could not make it because he was ill; actually he was in hospital, so he called the Chairman of the inquiry Chidanti Malunga to count him out.

But the unfortunate member is Mwenifumbo.

He was left behind because, according to the chairman, there was no money for him.

I followed the whole inquiry on Times Radio and those who did the same can agree with me that Mwenifumbo added value to the inquiry.

He was neutral and took no sides in the matter. His questions were to the point, intelligent and thought-provoking.

He treated all those who appeared before the inquiry with respect and honour.

I have no problems with Kalua but the Rumphi East MP was most of the times temperamental, fired partisan questions and could be heard intimidating poor souls that were called to appear before the inquiry.

As Consumers Association of Malawi Executive Director John Kapito said in recent media interviews, it seemed as if Kalua and some members were out there to incriminate somebody or some people.

I am, therefore, surprised that the chairman opted to pick Kalua instead of Mwenifumbo, who to me, showed level-headedness in the matter.

There were also some members who were very passive, hardly participated in the inquiry although they were there, very much present in flesh.

This, therefore, makes me wonder what criteria did the chairman use to select those to go with him to Zambia on national duties.

I know that the inquiry had no money; Parliament has no money, so the Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba had to take the begging bowl to Cisanet, who graciously said yes.

I am told each MP received $500 per day for the seven-day trip but the best option would have been to cut the number of days and accommodate Mwenifumbo or the chairman would simply have asked the Speaker for one member. I am sure he would have done something.

I am saying all this not because I am bitter that Mwenifumbo has not made it to Zambia, no. I have nothing to do with his job as MP but my only problem is that this infighting will overshadow the outcome of this investigation, no matter how good it might be.

People tend to focus on bad things.

This issue of Maizegate was brought to us, the people of Malawi, in good faith by the Times Group and we want this issue to come to the end amicably.

The parliamentary inquiry is the most loved and most trusted as I said earlier; therefore, the members should maintain its dignity.

In the same vein, let me congratulate George Chaponda on calling the Clerk of Parliament just to tell her that he is now ready to face the inquiry.

We all know that Chaponda trampled on the rule of law, he disregarded and threw out of window a court order restraining him from working and now he had the whole inquiry waiting for him but decided to snub it.

Impunity! This is the right word to scream when describing the behaviour of Chaponda.

I understand President Peter Mutharika has earmarked him as his successor in the Democratic Progressive Party and probably the next president after Mutharika.

But this should not make him behave as if he were above the law; he should not behave as if he were already state president.

After all, even state presidents are not above the law in Malawi.

Therefore, his change of the heart to appear before the parliamentary inquiry is soothing though personally I find too little, too late. The damage has already been made.

It will be hard for the DPP to sell Dr. Chaponda as a presidential material in 2024!

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