A crowd hurled insults at embattled former Minister of Agriculture , Irrigation nd Water Development George Chaponda on Wednesday evening following his arrest earlier in the day by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and two others linked to a corruption scandal involving maize imports from Zambia.
Chaponda hidding his face inside a vehicle heading towards Blantyre Police Station
Large crowds were on guard in the commercial city of Blantyre as Chaponda and Rashid Tayub the head of Transglobe based in Blantyre appeared before the graft-busting body for questioning.
Nyasa Times reported last Friday that Chaponda’s arrest was imminent after learning that an arrest warrant was obtained from the court.
On Wednesday morning at 8.20am , Chaponda handed himself at ACB arriving on a red Range Rover registration MJ 7541 in company of a personal handler.
Money laundering legal expert Alfred Jairos Banda and another lawyer Frank Mbeta later joined Chaponda.
Tayub also handed himself to ACB before midday after learning there was a warrant of arrest.
Another suspect businesswoman Grace Mijiga Mhango of a locally registered Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPA) was arrested in the capital Lilongwe.
Chaponda, who is Mulanje South West Member of Parliament and vice-president (South) for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) attracted attention from the public in Blantyre as news of his arrest tricked in after a breaking news on Nyasa Times and messages going viral on social media.
Hundreds of residents of Blantyre camped at ACB offices and chanted “Chaponda wakuba (Chaponda is thieving politician’”.
They demanded authorities to let Chaponda face the tax-payers.
“Wakuba, wakuba mtulutseni timuone,” chanted the crowds as they mobbed his vehicle,
Meanwhile, Chaponda was captured on camera hiding his face in the vehicle, apparently in shame.
The crowds were not intimidated by the presence of notorious DPP Cadets who came at the bureau with party regional governor for south Charles Mchacha and his treasurer Ngozi Harawa around.
The people even followed the ACB vehicle carrying Chaponda registration MG 738 AC still chanting insulting songs.
Social and political commentator Mankhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that the booing and humiliation [with the exception of few cases of some stoning] that Chaponda experienced at the hands of hundreds of Blantyre residents should partly send a clear message to those in authority that “Malawians in their perceived docility are bitter with the way those in authority are managing public affairs particularly by worshipping the culture of impunity at the expense of public interest. “
Said Munthali: “What we saw in Blantyre is a clear testimonty that Malawians are now tired and angry with the impunity that had characterised high profile corruption related cases, and were only waiting for an opportune time to express such discontent.
“Instead of pretending that things are okay, those in authority should swallow their pride, repent of their sins and stop taking Malawians for granted. The fact that this public anger occured in their so-called political stronghold should make them wake up from their slumber and begin to walk their talk.
“Otherwise, merely dismissing the events as the work of the opposition is recipe for disaster.”
The trio are accused of illegal actions in the procurement of 100,000 tons of maize from Zambia by Malawi’s grain marketer ADMARC, the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation.
Malawi acquired the maize at a highly inflated rate from Zambia, though Chaponda at that time justified the deal as a critical attempt to “save Malawi from hunger”.
The arrests come after two commissions of inquiry established by President Peter Mutharika and parliament in January recommended the investigation into Chaponda and others linked to the scandal, dubbed “Maizegate.”
The AC said in a statement that Chaponda is likely to be charged with “corruptly performing public functions, misuse of public office and possession of foreign currency” while Mhango “is likely to be charged with forgery.”
Tayub is expected to answer charges of influencing a public officer to misuse public office.
In February, President Mutharika fired Chaponda after investigators found nearly $200,000 in cash in the minister’s home.
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