15 February 2017

Malawi: Officials Treating Fire At Chaponda's Office As Accident

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water development say they are treating the fire that gutted down the office of the minister George Chaponda at Capital Hill in Lilongwe, as an accident.

Spokesperson for the ministry Halmiton Chimala said people should not make rushed conclusions on the fire.

"As of now we are treating this as an accident until investigators give us a report," he said.

He said this was not the first time the fire has gutted the offices. The fire gutted the offices of the minister and the principal secretary and some directors when the graft busting body, the Anti Corruption Bureau is investigating Chaponda on suspicious corrupt practices over the procurement of maize from Zambia.

The Inspector General of Police Lexter Kachama, Home Affairs minister Grace Chiumia and secretary to Office of President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara were among top government officials who rushed to the fire scene at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.

Some members of staff said the fire started from a socket where a plasma TV screen of the minister is connected.

Special assistant tot the minister Simon Boyce said a messanger who was in the office of the minister's secretary informed him that the fire started after a bolt of lightning arond 11am..

However, some people said although there was heavy down pour at the time the fire started, there were no lighting.

The police on the scene said it was too early to comment on the matter.

Chimala said Chaponda was safe as he had not been reporting for duties.

Inspector General (IG) of Police, Lexten Kachama, and some senior police officers witnessed the incident throughout.

Police IG Kachama expressed his concern over the fire.

"This is very saddening considering how much has been damaged in this fire," Kachama told reporters.

"We are yet to establish the cause of the fire," he added.

Kachama expressed grateful to Lilongwe City Council, and General Griffin Supuni Phiri of the Malawi Defence Force for "mobilizing support in time."

Other cabinet ministers among them, Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Grace Chiumia, and other government officials also came to witness the scene.

It is yet to be established how much property has been consumed in the fire and what really caused it.

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