… State House’s Kapondamgaga save face with a leaked memo acknowledging the rot
BY PIJ REPORTER
Three private security officers from the statehouse have been named as suspects in the land grabbing scandal in Lilongwe’s area 49 – a development that raises questions on the calibre of people that have surrounded President Lazarus Chakwera.
Since assuming power in June 2020 – Chakwera has sacked two of his top aides on allegations of fraud; one (Pastor Thom) was fired for allegedly smuggling a loan bill in the national assembly and another one (Chris Chaima Banda) is facing trial for attempting to influence the award of fuel contracts.
And as if all this is not enough, another of President Lazarus Chakwera’s aide, this time his Chief Advisor on Rural Transformation and Development, Adamson Mkandawire, has been sued by Businessman Abdul Karim Batatawala for soliciting K378 million loan from him using Chakwera’s name and other top government officials.
Batatawala alleges in an interview with Zodiak Online that he is a victim of a probable dubious claim in which Mkandawire told him that he was to pay for a cargo consignment from Kenya of which the president was aware of.
Lawyer for Batatawala, Richard Kuleza Phokoso, confirmed the matter is before the High Court Commercial Division in Blantyre where his client is attempting to recoup the money with interest.
Mkandawire who says cannot comment on a matter which is before the court wonders why the businessman is coming out now when the money was loaned to him some two years ago.
But in the latest incident, the statehouse security officers are accused of invading land belonging to Lilongwe City Council which was reserved for the construction of a public school and clinic. A visit to the site shows that construction of some foundations had already started, and plots seem to have been demarcated.
Having noticed the invasion – concerned community members reported the matter to Lilongwe City Council where they also submitted the names of the suspects.
From collaborated interviews with community members, officials from the statehouse, and Lilongwe City Council (LCC) the suspects were identified as Charles Burton, Andelemani Masina, Jack Mande, and Aubrey Phiri.
Burton works as Chief Personal Assistant to the President on security matters and his office is at Kang’ombe house alongside other presidential advisors while Masina works at Kamuzu Palace as Chief Security Officer responsible for operations.
Jack Mande is another security officer under Masina’s supervision. PIJ could not independently identify who Aubrey Phiri is and when we called his line the respondent claimed he was not Aubrey Phiri even when the number registered the same name on Airtel Money.
Burton, in an interview, said he was informed about the said plots by Mande who claimed to have been approached by some officials from Lilongwe City Council.
According to Burton apart from simply having the information he never acquired any piece of land and feels bad that his name has been dragged into mud and that of his employer.
“Jack Mande approached me – if I was interested in the plots which he said LCC was allocating to interested parties. I personally know the plots because I live around the area, and I really wanted to acquire one. When I visited the site – I found plots already demarcated and construction had already started when I tried to check with some officials at LCC I was advised otherwise, and I never proceeded.
I did not acquire a plot and it is sad that my name has been dragged into this issue such that I have been summoned for an explanation by the Chief of Staff. I know Jack Mande also informed my colleague (Masina) about the same,” said Burton.
When we approached Masina he was quite jittery and threatened to deal with this reporter should they go-ahead to publish his name. Put to him that Burton had claimed that he was aware of this move, Masina said apart from having this information he never participated in the deal because he believes in procedures.
He said: “The little I have is enough for me. I know the procedure on how to acquire land and I would not do this. If I have to die poor let me be otherwise, I cannot indulge myself in such malpractice, I am not the type of person. In fact, I do not even know where the said piece of land is”.
Mande, the alleged, mastermind of this game said all that has been said about him is an exaggeration and everything that has been said about him is a lie. Asked why he thinks one of his bosses has implicated him, Mande said he has no idea, and he sees politics at work. He could not clearly elaborate what he meant.
Said Mande: “This is a total lie. I do not know anything. You see we are politicians and politics could be at play but otherwise I do not know where even these plots are”.
There are reports that the alleged conduct of the three have annoyed President Lazarus Chakwera who has asked the Chief of Staff to conduct a disciplinary hearing on the matter.
As a confirmation of displeasure at the statehouse, last evening, a memo from Chief of Staff Prince Kapondamgaga to all members of staff at state residences leaked – which warned against inappropriate conduct which includes “using the name of the statehouse to unlawfully acquire public goods, such as public land, for private use.
But our impeccable source claimed that the leaked memo was just for face-saving because the suspects are unlikely to be dismissed.
“The President may be truly angry, but someone is likely to shield these guys because the issue of land encroachment is quite prevalent and while these ones have been unlucky – there could be more people from statehouse involved in this” claimed the source.
Minister of lands Sam Kawale told Nation Online that the suspects of land grabbing were employees from state residences, OPC, and Lilongwe City Council (LCC). While Kawale did not name the people involved he said he had recommended to their employer disciplinary action.
“The Chakwera administration will not tolerate this kind of impunity, and no one will be spared whether even a cabinet minister is from the statehouse, a party member, government official,” said Kawale as quoted by Nation Online.
Both community members and their member of parliament Alfred Jiya have asked the state President to dismiss the officials from employment.
In a statement the Human Rights Defendants Coalition (HRDC) said it feels that the memo alone from statehouse is not enough, but the statehouse should report the matter to ACB for investigations for this was a criminal matter.