Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) and the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) are shocked with the continued silence by government over the revelations coming from Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and water Development citing Zambia’s President and the Minister of Agriculture to have been the main players of the scandalous maize deal.
TIZ and CTPD are particularly shocked that despite many calls from the Media, Civil society Organizations and indeed the Zambian people, there has not been a single response from government to refute or give a position on these serious allegations that have implicated the head of state and the Minister of Agriculture.
The two organizations are on record to have issued statement calling for clarification on the maize gate scandal as it has come to be popularly known in the media.
The two organizations are deeply concerned that a serious issue such as this one alleging impropriety at the highest levels and involving the country’s staple commodity has received such little prominence/attention. This issue has been there for the past 3 months.
In Malawi, some people have been suspended, the President has commissioned an inquiry demonstrating the gravity of the issue. Here in Zambia, no one wants to talk about it, but people have the time to debate about a third term six months down the line of a re-election. In our opinion, the third term debate is premature at this point, the country has got more pressing problems we also find it absurd that the minister of Agriculture has the time to respond to comments about her social life but neglects to a critical issue with potential food security implications.
As organizations who believe in Transparency and Accountability, we think that it is only prudent that government comes out on this matter and explain to the Zambian people what really happened. The Zambian people need answers from republican president on the following concerns.
1. Who instructed the exportation of Maize while the maize ban was in effect?
2. Who are the beneficial owners of the company “Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited” purported to have been the ‘middleman’ and only company allowed to export maize to Malawi when it was clear that the maize ban was in effect.
3. If, as purported by the Malawian government, that this was a government to government deal, at what point did Kaloswe Commuters and Couriers Ltd enter the equation? Is the company also part of the Zambian government?
4. Why are we exporting 100 000 metric tons of maize grain when the Food Reserve Agency has had serious challenges in meeting the stipulated 500,000 metric tons threshold?
5. Why has the Zambian government kept quiet when information is already out there in the public domain that the procurement of maize from Zambia could have been done without following laid down procedures and procurement regulations.
TIZ and CTPD questions Governments resolve and commitment to the fight against corruption if we are allowing such serious issues to silently go under the carpet. We wonder What has happened to the declared stance of dismissing all Ministers and public officials involved in corruption?
We are appealing to the Zambian leaders to take their leadership roles conferred upon them by the Zambian people very seriously. They need to realize that they have a responsibility to be accountable to their employers who happen to be the Zambian Citizens. Accountability entails answerability to the people that gave you the mandate to lead. Our leaders need to begin to respect the voters.
We insist that Government should come out in the public and help the citizens know what exactly transpired in the maize gate scandal Even if it is not Zambian money, $34.5 million is a lot of money for a struggling country like malawi, a country that has been hit hard with food shortages following a drought in the last agriculture season. This is money which should have benefited the people of Malawi but has seemingly gone into private hands.. More importantly, the name of the country is being dragged in the mud with regards to its credibility to trade reliably. The international community is watching and what do we think such scandal will do to the name of the country. If people are not concerned about their own integrity, at least let them be concerned about the integrity of Zambia. There some people in government who have answers to these questions, people who met the Malawian Minister, people who signed permits, contracts, licenses and other authorizing documents. These are the people that should provide answers.
We are therefore demanding that either the ministry in question or the office of the president comes out to update the people of Zambia on the countries position with regards to the allegations”. Malawi is doing their part, as we speak according to Nyasa Times, “their Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development suspect that the transactions of maize purchase from Zambia had corruption characteristics and parliament has demanded an investigation into the procurement process”. We as TIZ and CTPD suggest that our Parliament should equally take keen interest in the matter and demand for accountability so that if anyone is found wanting they can be brought to book.
We further urge the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to share with the public how far they have investigations, we understand that they were saved with a letter from Malawi’s Anti Corruptions Institution, it is our expectation that the Zambian anti-corruption will do due diligence in their work so that they can quickly identify all the culprits. If such drastic measures are not taken, it might imply that the president’s anti-corruption pronouncements were merely aimed at gaining political mileage and sympathy from the Zambian people. The Zambian people will also assume that indeed corruption did take place and those allegations incriminating our leaders could have some truth in them.
WESLEY CHIBAMBA ISAAC MWAIPOPO
Ag Executive Director Ag Executive Director