Two employees of State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) have been arrested in Lilongwe after a vigilante group exposed their suspected plot to sell 20 bags of maize to rich vendors on an express basis.
In the abortive transaction, the workers were allegedly expected to receive a K40 000 (about $55) ‘tip’ while poor clients waited for rationed quantities of the grain in long queues.
Mabvuto Chimphonda, a 40-year-old Admarc saleslady in Area 44 in Lilongwe, and her colleague Ellen Malalu, 33, were arrested on Friday when they prioritised serving two vendors with whom they allegedly connived to sell 20 bags of maize without having to stand on the queue. in charge of a new satellite
Chimphonda is said to have hatched the plan by asking her surbordinate, Malalu, to secretly identify vendors who had a sizeable amount of money and were prepared to give the tip.
The vendors, two women, stepped forward, providing K160 000 for the 20 bags, including K40 000 for the tip.
Sources said the Admarc workers then advised their special clients to identify pieceworkers (ganyu) who were to take the 20 kilogramme (kg) packs to a nearby house where they would repack the maize into the standard 50 kg packs.
The animated activity, as the 20 kg packages were being taken to the house, raised eyebrows among the people in the queue, especially because none of those carrying maize had been in the queue with them.
The people reported this to the community policing members in the area, who promptly alerted Group Village Head Beni, according to sources.
The traditional leader and his team went to the house where the maize was being kept temporarily.
“I caught them red-handed. I asked the boys to take the bags to a nearby police roadblock, where Malalu confessed to have been sent by her boss, a story which Chimphonda, herself, confessed to,” he said.
Chimphonda and Malalu are remanded at Kawale Police Station and are expected to be charged with abuse of office, contrary to Section 95 of the Penal Code.
Chimphonda comes from Chikalusa Village, Traditilnal Authority (T/A) Chadza in Lilongwe District while Malalu is from Nguwo Village, T/A Juma, in Mulanje District.
Beni said he was shocked that such a scam could have surfaced, after the depot was opened only a week ago.
Kawale Police Station criminal investigations officer Oscar Nkhambule said Admarc markets have been placed under special surveillance and those indulging in crooked methods of selling or acquiring maize will be brought to book.
Malawi is facing a food shortage owing to a 30 percent drop in harvest for maize, the staple grain, in the 2014/15 growing season due to combined effects of floods and drought in Janaury 2015.
Admarc is currently struggling to supply adequate tonnage of the staple grain in its depots and selling points nationwide, forcing thousands of Malawians to spend nights at the selling points in anticipation of the next delivery.
To cater for more people, Admarc has been rationing the maize, restricting individuals to buy a maximum of 20 kg.