Three civil society organisations (CSOs) yesterday applied for a judicial review of President Peter Mutharika’s decision not to suspend Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda amid a probe into the Zambia maize import transaction.
The CSOs’ move follows Mutharika’s appointment of a commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption and malpractices in the maize import deal between State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and a Zambian company.
The CSOs—Youth and Society (YAS), Church and Society Programme of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia and Centre for Development of People (Cedep)—have also applied for an injunction restraining Chaponda from discharging his duties as a Cabinet minister pending a further order of the court.
Chaponda, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale and Mutharika are first, second and third respondents respectively in the Civil Case No. 1 of 2017 filed at the Mzuzu Registry of the High Court of Malawi. The case is before High Court judge John Chirwa.
In their submission through lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa, the CSOs submit that the reliefs are sought, among others, over Mutharika’s decision not to suspend Chaponda and the minister’s decision not to pave the way for investigations.
Reads the submission in part: “The decision of the third respondent [Mutharika] not to suspend the first respondent [Chaponda] as a Minister of Agriculture pending the conclusion of investigations of an alleged maize purchase corruption scandal involving the first respondent and a Zambian company.
“The decision of the third respondent to maintain the first respondent as a line Cabinet minister where he allegedly was involved in a corruption scandal which is being investigated by a commission of inquiry instituted by the third respondent…”
They are also questioning Mutharika’s decision to include in the commission of inquiry on the maize saga some civil servants, whom they argue are subordinates to Chaponda.
Two members of the probe team—Socilitor General and Principal Secretary of Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Dr. Janet Banda and Law Commission deputy chief law reform officer Mike Chinoko—are civil servants. The commission is chaired by retired Chief Justice Anastazia Msosa and certified public auditor Isaac Kaira completes the set.
In their plea, the CSOs want the court to, among others, to declare that Mutharika erred in his choice of members of the commission of inquiry.
Further, they also seek the court’s declaration that Chaponda, being a line Cabinet minister, is being directly investigated, may interfere with the investigation.
In an interview after filing the application, Mwafulirwa said his clients strongly believe that Chaponda may interfere with investigations.
The judge is this morning expected to make a determination on the application for injunction and judicial review on the matter.
Documents show that Admarc may have used a private Zambian company, Kaloswe Commuter and Courier Limited that may have been more expensive. n