By Judith Msowoya-Mbale
A couple of days ago, I bumped into an article; which, I can safely say, was incorrectly reported and factually disturbing. It is a story that has been told and re-told in our local press; and, in most cases told wrongly to the extent you would believe most of these stories are probably paid for—or enough efforts have not been accorded on part of our scribes to get the truth—nothing but the truth—from the grapevine.
If you have followed this story, which has been told and re-told, erroneously for that matter, you discover one unmistakable thing that is unavoidable. The scribes—or journalists—who report it are the same; and, in most instances give no effort whatsoever to get the side of the story of the alleged person; or, as they put it, the accused person “could not be reached for comment.”
Well, the story, as I have said has been told and re-told. The story is maize-gate—that dubious purchase of maize from neighboring Zambia by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development at the tutelage of Dr George Chaponda.
While the agricultural ministry has a horde of staff in its offices across the country, maize-gate has strangely been smeared on Chaponda. Of course, to some extent, it makes sense: he was minister responsible at the time of the purchase.
But does that make him become guilty for sins he did not commit? Surely not. As I said, for the news article I read about a fortnight ago, dots can be traced that something sinister has been happening with the maize-gate story—as regards to Dr Chaponda in particular.
What is more shocking is that the media has concentrated more on dirtying Chaponda’s name in the public domain than actually finding out the “real truth” about the entire syndicate.
It makes one wonder that even after eleven months of court appearances, and then an acquittal at the Zomba Chief Resident Magistrate court, it did not tickle in the journalists’ minds that perhaps there could be more to the maize-gate story instead of simply painting Dr Chaponda black.
And the story, I bumped into some days ago, suggested that Dr Chaponda was returning to court for maize-gate. What a fluff! How could the journalist error that crazily when even an amateur in law knows that Dr Chaponda was acquitted of the crime by the Malawi judicial system.
For our own information, Dr Chaponda is a distinguished international diplomat and a former senior cabinet minister with an impeccable track record to the extent that he even rose to position of leader of the house in parliament.
Remember how he brought sanity to the education sector when he ordered the closure of all substandard schools in the country? Schools whose aim was to milk people of their monies in the name of providing their wards with an education?
Remember how he brought sanity to the City of Blantyre when he was local government minister? Did we see vendors selling tomatoes and onions right in the central business district? Have you had a chance to look at the once beautiful Blantyre now? What about his track record at the UN and when he was chairman of council of the University of Malawi between 2003-2004?
To many what Dr Chaponda has achieved, so far, in his lifetime is what we simply read in books—creative fiction for that matter. Here is a man who, even after being painted black and ridiculed by haters has been re-elected for the fourth time as parliamentarian for Mulanje South West.
Now, that is as simple as reciting A, B and C. Not only that, this man has for thirteen consecutive years served this country in senior cabinet portfolios without being dropped; from the late Bingu wa Mutharika administration to the current administration having served as foreign minister (two times), local government minister for five years, justice minister, education minister and agriculture and rural development minister. Good people, is that not impeccable?
And, all of a sudden a man of such a caliber turns black. Well, the truth and fact is that there is something ominous about the Dr Chaponda case. Everyone knows that Dr Chaponda was a favorite to most of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the time who was being groomed to succeed President Peter Mutharika. But, as they say, not everyone was happy. Witch-hunting began—by those that have always felt inferior within the party.
But, let me not pre-empt. Let the paparazzi do their job on how power struggle has tried to down a man whose only sin has been to do what he is good at—serve his country.
And, I like the moment when at the DPP indaba sometime last year he withdrew his candidature for the Southern Region presidency against now agriculture minister Kondwani Nakhumwa “for the sake of peace in the party.” Is that not what we all preach but do not do?
The paparazzi should dig out more on why some people have made it a mission to soil Dr Chaponda and let the public know.
Or else, some of us will do!