Embattled former minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda yesterday broke his silence and said he was ready to be arrested for any wrong-doing.
Chaponda, who is also governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president (Southern Region), said he feels condemned for doing what he thought was for the benefit of starving Malawians.
The former Cabinet minister, who is Mulanje South West legislator, was speaking at a public rally in his constituency at Chonde in Mulanje. This was apparently the first time he directly spoke about his issue since President Peter Mutharika dismissed him from Cabinet on February 22 2017 following a public outcry to relieve him of his duties because of his involvement in the dubious procurement of maize from Zambia.
He said: “I have been waiting to be arrested because people have been saying so. And, again, that is what others want. So, I am still waiting. The law says you are innocent until proven guilty… so I am not afraid. Let them prove me guilty.”
His meeting was attended by senior DPP officials, including party secretary general Griselder Jeffrey.
Chaponda said he felt he was being persecuted by the public for reacting to the maize situation to save the 6.5 million Malawians who were facing hunger according to Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) surveys.
He said: “All the statements have been made. Investigations and clearances have been made by the commissions of inquiry [one appointed by the President and the other engaged by Parliament], but still some Malawians would like to continue talking about the maize. Even in Zambia, where this issue came from, they are totally quiet.”
Chaponda said he worked for the United Nations for over 20 years and he has his own investments; hence, it is hypocrisy for some people to allege that he stole public funds.
He also hit at People’s Party (PP) vice-president (North) and Rumphi East legislator Kamlepo Kalua who implicated him in his alleged abduction as the master mind.
Said Chaponda: “It did not make sense and I did not want to engage in quarrel with Honourable Kamlepo. However, the fact that it took him three weeks to come out with this story which was actually made up instead of reacting immediately or reporting to the police it is evidence to everybody that it was made up.”
In his narration in Parliament on June 8 2017, Kalua alleged Chaponda used his son-in-law to spy at Kalua son’s house where they went under the pretext of inquiring about motor vehicles.
But Chaponda challenged Kalua to stop hiding behind parliamentary immunity, arguing if what he said was true, he should make the same allegations outside Parliament.
The former minister was cleared of suspected corruption by both the presidential and parliamentary commissions of inquiry although they recommended a probe over his dealings with Transglobe Produce Export Limited, a private company.
The public rally, which was also the first to be held in the Southern Region for Jeffrey, was attended by DPP administrative secretary and presidential adviser on political affairs Francis Mphepo, DPP regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha and DPP director of women affairs Bertha Nachuma (South), among others.n