Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda arrived yesterday afternoon through Chileka International Airport in Blantyre. This was contrary to an earlier arrangement where he was expected to arrive via Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe at 2pm.
No senior government officials or Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials were seen at the airport, but the minister arrived under high security alert as more than 10 police officers in civilian were at the airport’s VIP lounge section.
The South African Airways (SAA) plane carrying Chaponda arrived at Chileka around 12.50pm and by 1.10pm, the minister, clad in a white golf shirt, was lady driven away in a vehicle registration BQ 5151.
Meanwhile, the police frustrated The Nation’s efforts to take pictures of Chaponda’s arrival after airport security staff detained photojournalist James Chimpweya and confiscated his camera minutes before Chaponda had emerged out of the VIP lounge.
Chimpweya, who was told that it was illegal to take pictures at the airport, let alone take pictures of Chaponda, was only released later when the vehicle driving Chaponda was heading to the exit gate.
Another police officer in civilian also restrained this reporter from taking pictures or talking to the minister as she engaged the reporter in an interrogation on what business brought her to the airport and how she could be at the VIP at that time. This was happening while the airport staff were packing Chaponda’s luggage in the car before being driven away.
Just after the car had entered the road from the airport’s premises, it pulled over on the left hand side of the road and a police officer, who was on the other side of the road approached the car, saluted Chaponda before the two engaged in a brief talk, about three minutes, before the car sped off. A police van came where the officer was standing, he jumped in and it also sped off just behind Chaponda’s car.
Chaponda, who is currently on forced leave following an injunction granted by the High Court in Mzuzu restraining him from performing official duties, sneaked out to Berlin, Germany last Thursday using a SAA flight at 1pm.
German Ambassador Jurgen Borsch confirmed to our sister paper Weekend Nation that Chaponda was invited by the German government through the German Minister of Agriculture in December for a conference in Berlin, but said he was not aware whether the minister took the trip or not.
In an interview on Friday, Khadi Camara, who is German-African Business Association (Gaba) project manager for Southern and Eastern Africa, confirmed Chaponda’s arrival in Berlin.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations efforts to move the contempt of court case against Chaponda sooner than January 31 has faced hurdles due to unavailability of a judge to hear the case at Mzuzu registry. n