Malawi’s Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) board which met in Blantyre last Friday ordered chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe to go on forced leave to pave way for investigations on the Zambia maize deal.
Mr Mulumbe, including Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister George Chaponda, are implicated in the Maize gate scandal that they may have indulged in corruption.
Admarc board chairperson James Masumbu confirmed that the board resolved that Mr Mulumbe should “go on leave” to pave way for the Commission of Inquiry to complete its probe on the misprocurement.
According to Mr Masumbu, Deputy Chief Executive of Admarc, Mrs Margret Mauwa will be stand-in CEO for the state-trader.
However, Mr. Masumbu said Mr. Mulumbe should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise by the Commission of Inquiry established to investigate the maize deal between State grain trader Admarc and Zambian private company, Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Ltd.
Malawian President Peter Mutharika instituted a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the scam in which Admarc reportedly bought maize at K26 billion (Malawian Kwacha) from the Zambian company and it is believed that Malawi could have saved about K9.5 billion ((Malawian Kwacha) if it had bought the grain directly from the Zambian government.
The use of a middleman, Kaloswe, is raising suspicion that officials may have indulged in corruption when Malawi government is on record to have said Mr Chaponda was in discussion with the Zambian government over the maize deal, and at some point, engaged in discussions directly with President Edgar Lungu.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations in Malawi are calling for an investigation into the death of Judge of the High Court of Malawi George Bakuwa in Zambia while on a tour of duty for Admarc.
Judge Bakuwa, who was a private practice lawyer and served as company secretary at Admarc., died barely two weeks after taking his oath of office as judge.
He died after a short illness at his hotel room at Protea Hotel in Lusaka.
Bakuwa has been in Zambia in recent weeks on Admarc duty for maize purchase and had been lodging at Protea Hotel.
Now following allegations of corrupt elements in the ‘maizegate’ 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), are calling for Bakuwa’s death be investigate.
Others are Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Youth and Society (YAS) and Citizen Alliance.
There has been speculation that Bakuwa may have been poisoned after he expressed reservation on the ‘cashgate’ style of corruption in the procurement saga.
They say government should have released details on the circumstances that led to Bakuwa’s death and the treatment provided to him.
But Malawian Government Spokesperson Nicholas Dausi has dismissed the calls for investigations into Bakuwa’s death.
“We should not overstretch our focus,” he said.
He said the matter to be addressed now is the investigations into how Admarc handled the procurement of the purported 100 000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF).
Admarc has been accused of engaging 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 ((Malawian Kwacha) which government borrowed from the PTA Bank for the purchase of the maize which is about K9.5 billion (Malawian Kwacha) more than the estimated K15 billion ((Malawian Kwacha) it could have paid had it bought the maize directly from the Zambian Government.