There was tension in Parliament on Tuesday after Rumphi East member of Parliament (MP) Kamlepo Kalua asked Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza to explain the status of tractors bought using a loan from India in 2012.
In 2012, Malawi obtained a $50 million (K30 billion) loan from India and bought 177 tractors, 144 maize shellers, seed cum and fertiliser application drilling machines in a drive to mechanise farming in the country.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Kalua wondered why government sold the tractors and shellers to “senior government officials” when they were meant for smallholder farmers to improve farming technologies.
He said: “So, why is it that senior officials from State House benefited from these tractors ?”
His query prompted leader of the House Francis Kasaila to ask Kalua to withdraw his statement on State House, saying it had implications that the President was also involved in buying the tractors or provide evidence to substantiate the claims.
But Kalua said he would not be threatened by anyone.
In response, Chiyembekeza outlined how the tractors and maize shellers were distributed.
He explained to the House that all agriculture development divisions (ADDs), extension planning areas (EPAS) and district councils benefited from the scheme as the equipment was sold by tender.
But his response sparked more uproar with as many as five MPs standing on a point of order, demanding the selling price.
Chiyembekeza, who was forced to read out names of beneficiaries, could not give the prices of the tractors. He, however, asked those interested to go to his office and get the information.
In April 2015, The Nation reported that each of the 60 horse power (HP) tractors was going at K5.6 million ($9,300.05) compared to the market price of K37 million ($61,446.8) for similar brands at Tata Malawi at the time.
From the multi-billion kwacha loan, the Malawi Government recovered K600 million ($996,434), according to The Nation findings and that taxpayers will start repaying the loan at K760 million ($1,262,150) per year from 2017. n