Social commentator Michael Usi has urged Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda against using divisive tribal overtones to downplay calls for further investigation into the scandalous importation of maize from Zambia.
There are mounting demands for the minister to resign as inquiries launched by President Peter Mutharika and Parliament recommended further investigations into various irregularities and corrupt practices in his dealings with Transglobe which is linked to the scandal.
However, Chaponda angrily reacted to the probe by the parliamentary committee as being championed by northerners antagonistic to him because he is Lhomwe from the South.
The minister also blamed the committee for not summoning Minister of Finance and Economic Development Goodall Gondwe who says he had nothing more to say after the Principal Secretary for the Treasury Ronald Mangani already appeared before the committee.
However, Usi asked all people being investigated in connection with the controversial $34.5 million Malawi-Zambia maize deal not to drag their tribes into “this matter of national importance”.
In an interview, he said: “I am Lhomwe by birth, but I grew up looking at myself as a Malawian because the Constitution does not look at our tribes. It does not distinguish a Lhomwe from a Tumbuka or a Yao from a Tonga. All it says is that we are all equal and no one, not a single tribe, is above the law.
“It is disturbing that some of the people being investigated are using tribes as an excuse. The minister, like all people in power, should be cautious with their words. They must play a leading role in fostering the spirit of unity instead of dividing the nation along tribal lines.”
According to Usi, the ruling party risks being perceived as a bastion of tribalism and hatred against the people of the North if its leadership will not spring up to condemn Chaponda’s invectives.
“We are talking about a party which introduced the infamous quota system of selecting students to public universities and its founder, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, made no secret that the policy was targeting northerners. I expect DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] leaders to stand and show that they neither support Chaponda’s view nor harbour pathological hatred of people of the North.”