The Blantyre City Council (BCC) has said it cannot provide information to rights activists Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence on how it sold the mayor’s house to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
In an interview on Friday, BCC chief executive officer Alfred Chanza said they will not respond to the query and are ready to meet the two in court.
In a letter to BCC, demanding information dated August 25 2018, through lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa, Mtambo and Trapence argued that the purported sale smacks of corruption, unfair favouring of one political party, money-laundering, breach of public trust and breach of public procurement laws.
With the DPP admitting that it bought the house at K65 million, which was part of a K145 million donation from Pioneer Investments, a company entangled in the police food rations deal, the activists argue that money used to make the purchase is tainted, illegal and came from a series of dubious transactions.
The activists wonder whether other political parties, private citizens or businesses were given a chance to bid for the property, or generally whether there was a fair public sale of the said property.
“The information that our client has, is that the publicity secretary of DPP [Nicholas Dausi] admitted that the money used to make the purchase came from an illegal and dubious political funding from Pioneer Investments.
“The said publicity secretary admitted the illegality of the money and refunded the money to Pioneer Investments. Our clients strongly believe that the money used to make this purchase is tainted, illegal and came from a series of dubious transactions. The whole sale process, therefore, our clients believe, amount to money-laundering of proceeds of crime.”
Specifically, they had asked the BCC to confirm if the house was sold to DPP and whether all public procurement procedures were followed in the transaction.
They also want to know whether there were any incentives or coercion or any undue influence on the part of the city council to offer the public property to DPP, and no one else.
“Be informed that if our clients do not receive the details of the transaction on or before the 3rd of September 2018, they may drag your two institutions to court, to enforce their rights.
“If the matter goes to court, our clients reserve the right to seek several other reliefs, including cancellation of the whole sale, an account of how the funds were used, and costs for the legal proceedings,” adds the letter.
Unmoved with threat of a possible lawsuit, the chief executive officer said on Friday that his office will not respond to the demand.
“There is no issue to respond to here. This is a straight forward issue. We have all facts on the issue, and let them go to court, we will meet there with our facts. They do not have interest on the matter,” he said.
However, Mtambo said going by Chanza’s response, they are ready to face BCC in court.
“We are the citizens; we are taxpayers; we have sufficient interest to ask for accountability in the manner; they are using our resources; we have sufficient interest. It seems they have developed a tendency that they should be abusing our resources and in the end, they say we don’t have sufficient interest,” he charged.
According to a leaked November 2017 Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) report, a day after the supplier deposited K2.793 billion payment from Police for supplying 500 000 ration packs, the company transferred K145 million to the DPP Standard Bank account on April 13 2016.
Between January and October 2016, President Peter Mutharika “made cheque withdrawals amounting to K65 million from the said Standard Bank account,” the Bureau report says.
Following pressure from the public, the DPP reportedly returned the money to Pioneer Investments.