The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has challenged its critics saying there is no legitimate reason for the party to get rid of its vice-president for the South, George Chaponda.
The party says the fact that he is answering a court case does not warrant a removal from his position as he is only an accused person.
There were reports of growing calls from political and social commentators requesting the party to do away with Chaponda in its rank and file, a former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and also a legislator for Mulanje West, because of his court case.
The former Cabinet minister alongside Rashid Tayub, a Transglobe Produce Limited director and Grace Mijiga-Mhango, chairperson of the Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi (GTPA), were arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on suspicion of corruption relating to procurement of government maize from Zambia.
But in an interview on Sunday, DPP publicity secretary Francis Kasaila said the party believes that in any process, people have the right to be heard until proven guilty by a competent court of law.
“So, as a party, unless a competent court decides otherwise that is when we will be able to make a decision. For now, we cannot make a decision on the basis of an accusation,” said Kasaila who is also Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development.
But the spokesperson’s remarks contradict what he, and the party’s secretary general Greizeldar Jeffrey, told The Nation in February 2017 that the party’s national governing council (NGC) was scheduled to meet then to consider what action to take against Chaponda.
Kasaila also denied reports that President Peter Mutharika had barred the former minister from attending any DPP public events.
In a separate interview on Sunday, DPP regional governor for the South, Charles Mchacha, also described the reports that the party was under pressure to fire Chaponda and that he had been barred from party events as imaginary.
“Any appointment or dismissal made by the party’s president cannot be concealed. So why should it not be made public,” he said.
Mchacha also claimed that in as far as the region was concerned, there were no divisions among its rank and file to have Chaponda removed.
Chaponda was not available when contacted but he told The Daily Times recently that at no point has the party’s NGC brought up his court issue and that he had been attending all party meetings.
But commenting on the matter, University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political scientist George Phiri said removing Chaponda was necessary as the party prepares for the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “What happened gives a bad picture for the governing party and removing him would clear that image. So, it is necessary that the decision has to be carried out.”
Chaponda, the party’s stalwart, was fired from Cabinet on February 22 2017 following public pressure after the ACB instituted investigations on allegations of his involvement in the K26 billion maize import deal from Zambia, popularly known as maizegate.