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Malawi former agriculture minister George Chaponda arrested

LILONGWE Malawi (Xinhua) -- East African Malawi’s graft busting body, the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), Wednesday arrested former Agriculture Minister George Chaponda, who was under investigation for corruption.

Chaponda was allegedly involved in dubious procurement of maize from the neighboring Zambia, and was recently fired as agriculture minister by President Peter Mutharika to pave the way for investigations.

The maize was meant to serve Malawi people who were going through a period of hunger, which had resulted from persistent droughts and excessive rainfall in some parts of the country.

According to Egrita Ndala, ACB Senior Public Relations Officer, the bureau received a complaint last December that procedures had not been followed during the procurement of the country’s staple food from Zambia.

The ACB sent its officers to Zambia in January where they interviewed relevant people together with the Anti-Corruption Commission of Zambia.

An abrupt fire razed Chaponda’s office and destroyed all documents on Feb. 14 while investigations were still underway. This aroused public suspicion that the arson was Chaponda’s desperate attempt to destroy all the evidence therein.

On Feb. 21, ACB officers raided the residences of Chaponda where they found and confiscated 58,000 U.S. dollars and 124 million Malawian Kwachas of local currency (about 171,100 dollars) in stacks of cash stashed in suitcases.

“The Ant-Corruption Bureau investigation established that there were offences committed in the procurement of the maize from Zambia,” an official statement on the arrest said.

Chaponda is yet to be granted court bail. He faces three counts of corruptly performing public functions, misuse of public office, and illegal possession of foreign currency. (1 U.S. dollar = 724.70 Malawian Kwachas)



Malawi prisons remain closed as warders demand pay hike

LILONGWE (Xinhua) -- Prison gates in Malawi have remained closed since Saturday as warders continue to protest for a hike to their monthly pay.

The warders are taking to the streets blocking roads and chanting protest songs to force the government to pay heed to their concerns.

Apart from the salary increment, the warders are also demanding that elevation in rank in Prison department should be on a par with its sister departments namely, the police and immigration, with which they all fall under the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security.

The country’s Home Affairs Minister, Grace Chiumia has since condemned the protests saying the government was already looking into the warders’ grievances.

She accuses the warders of taking to the streets out of lack of patience.

Chiumia is on record to have told the country’s local media that “These are security officers, and security officers are not supposed to go on strike because security is compromised when they do.”

“What they are protesting about is an issue of functional review which we are currently working on; we started with the Immigration officers and Police officers whom we have promoted a rank up and the prison officers were next,” she said.

She had, on Sunday, visited Zomba Maximum Prison, a penitentiary in the country’s Southern Region, to reason with the protesting warders and to urge them back to work.

On Monday morning, however, the warders in the capital, Lilongwe blocked the road to Maula Prison, the largest reformatory facility in the central region as they continued to sing protest songs.

“We are not going back to work until our promotions have been effected and our salaries have been raised,” stated one of the demonstrating warders who spoke on condition of anonymity.



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