Pressure is mounting on President Peter Mutharika to suspend State-produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe to create space for an impartial and independent probe into the Zambian maize procurement saga.
Latest to issue such demands are civil society organisations (CSOs) who have also called for the resignation of Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda, saying their continued stay in their positions would “jeopardise the investigations”.
The call comes barely days after two Parliamentary Committees—Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Public Accounts—separately made similar demands.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has also indicated that it will—in conjunction with its Zambian counterparts—investigate corrupt elements in the matter.
The statement was issued yesterday by the leaders of the country’s key CSOs, including Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec).
Others are Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Youth and Society (YAS) and Citizen Alliance.
“We are thus worried that with the revelations, Admarc is trying to cover up its shady dealings which has now resulted in Kaloswe suing Admarc for breach of contract while on the other hand, Admarc wants to fight and silence citizens as evidenced in their acquisition of an injunction restraining Times Group from publishing anything related to the maize deal.
“This clearly manifests how bent on plundering our national resources government and its accomplices have shown on a matter of national importance and concerning people’s right to life,” reads the statement in part.
Apart from suggesting that Mulumbe and Chaponda should step down, the CSOs also want government to set up an independent investigations commission made up of CSOs, private entrepreneurs, parliamentarians and ACB officials to investigate the deal and report within three weeks from such appointments.
“By copy of this statement, we are lodging a formal complainant to ACB to investigate on the corruption Admarc case,” reads the statement.
Besides Mulumbe, the CSOs also want all officials who have been party to the transaction to be suspended to pave the way for independent investigations.
Further, the CSOs want Admarc to vacate an injunction it sought against Times Group and that all actions against national entities and individuals discontented with the deal be withdrawn.
The rights defenders also demand that the status of the purchase of the maize be declared to the public with all the remaining processes covered in camera.
They have further asked Mutharika to come in the open and address the nation on the issue.
The past days, a series of articles have been published on how Admarc allegedly handled the procurement of the purported 100 000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF).
But at the core of the issue is the engagement of a privately-owned Zambian company Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited which purportedly played the role of middleman in the deal.
The Zambian company has since reportedly dragged Admarc to court for breach of contract, having already done so with the Zambia Cooperative Federation over similar charges.
Admarc reportedly paid about K26 billion which government borrowed from the PTA Bank for the purchase of the maize which is about K9.5 billion more than the estimated K15 billion it could have paid had it bought the maize directly from the Zambian Government.
Government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi when contacted refused to comment, saying doing so would prejudice the matter which is now in court.
In an earlier interview with The Nation, consumer rights activist John Kapito, who is executive director of Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), also called for an independent inquiry into the matter. n