Representatives of society organisations (CSOs) on Friday rejected Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe’s explanation for the K4 billion allocation made to parliamentarians during the Mid-Term Budget Review Meeting.
The CSOs have since demanded the immediate resignation of the Finance minister over the allocation which Parliament authorised after revelations that it had initially targeted lawmakers who support government agenda, and despite opposition calls that the transaction was fraudulent.
Gondwe had called for the meeting which took place at Capital Hill from around 10 am to 1pm and ended in a stalemate.
In an interview, Gondwe said despite the disappointment that the civil society officials had stuck to their guns, the meeting was successful as he had dispelled any misconceived notions of the transaction.
“I have managed my aim of the meeting, which was to explain facts of the matter and they agree that the money has not been disbursed and that the transaction is not illegal,” he said.
The Finance minister, who was willing to continue dialogue on the matter and dismissed any possibility of resigning over the controversy, said: “When you have done no wrong, you don’t resign. They agree that I have not done anything illegal.”
But one of the CSOs’ representatives, Gift Trapence, who is also Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director, said the CSOs were not impressed by Gondwe’s explanations and still want him to resign.
“We are not judges, so it is up to competent courts to decide whether he [Gondwe] has acted illegally or not. What we are saying, and our position, remains after the meeting, is that the manner this money is being disbursed is suspicious and prone to abuse. We are saying Gondwe must resign because there are laid out procedures for disbursement of such funds and instead of improving any weaknesses in LDF or any other mechanism, the Minister says he wants to try new ways, which are not clear,” he said.
Trapence hinted at CSOs resorting to court action, but said no final decision was made and any follow up action will be announced in due course.
“The position we are announcing, that the minister has to resign, is something we have communicated to the minister during the meeting in person. It’s a position our team quickly arrived at based on what the minister told us, but we will announce the next steps soon. Whether we need to go to court to force for our demands or not, is something the public will soon know,” he added.
If civil society seeks to force Gondwe to resign or President Peter Mutharika to fire him as likely anticipated, it will not be a first for the country.
During the Maizegate affair—a scandal of misprocurement of maize from outside the country— some CSOs, including those represented in Friday’s dialogue, obtained a court order compelling Mutharika to fire then Agriculture Minister George Chaponda when the President rejected calls for his dismissal.
During Friday’s meeting, Gondwe was accompanied by presidential aides, Hetherwick Ntaba and Mabvuto Bamusi while the civil society, apart from Trapence, was represented by Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo, activist Billy Mayaya and Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka.