11 January 2019

Malawi: Karim Batatawala in 'Smear Campaign' Against Mutharika, DPP - Wants K53bn From Govt Without Supplying for 5 Years

Photo: Nyasa Times
Malawi President Peter Mutharika.

Controversial Blantyre-based business mogul Abdul Karim Batatawala has been exposed to have been behind circulating in social media a malicious document implicating President Peter Mutharika to be the beneficiary of a duly awarded food rations contracts at Police.

According to documents seen by Nyasa Times, Batatawala had been instructing people on WhatsApp platform to circulate the documents widely - containing malicious and distorted information - with intent to injure the reputation of the President and the suppliers.

Mutharika is on record saying that as May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections is nigh, detractors will target him and his administration with smear propaganda.

"They will try to make us look corrupt because they know we make every effort to run a clean government," said Mutharika.

Mutharika said his governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has proved to be "indestructible", "unstoppable" and "unbreakable."

"They tried to impeach us in Bingu's time. They failed. And we survived! They conspired against our former President. Bingu died. But DPP never died because we are the DPP.

"We lost the dreamer, but we never lost our dream. The dreamer died, but the dream never died! They tried to take us out of government. But we came back. They tried to deny us the 2014 Election. But they failed.

"We have been tried by an economic crisis. We fixed the economy! We have been tried by floods, drought and hunger! We survived and prevailed!

"For four years, they have tried to overthrow our Government by sponsoring demonstration after demonstration. But they failed. We survived every evil plot they hatched. Traitors tried to steal the Party from us. They failed. They tried to spoil our Convention! They failed!

"They will try to do everything to stop us from developing this country, but we will prevail."

Mutharika said DPP will prevail because the party intentions are clean and all they want is to develop the country.

As reported by Nyasa Times on Thursday, Karim Batatawala through his firms - Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company - want taxpayers to pay them K53 billion from the uniform supplies at the Immigration Department, more than five times the agreed contract amount.

As seen by Nyasa Times, the contract stipulated that the delivery and payments will be "gradual and spread over a period of several years in accordance with the uniform needs of the Department of Immigration."

The contract was signed by Elvis Thodi in the capacity of Chief Immigration Officer. Thodi is now director general of the State spy agency.

Government is now fighting the claim for contracts signed in March 2012 for just over K9 billion, arguing it fell off automatically when five years elapsed without the delivering of the goods despite the department placing orders on April 10 2022.

And in a memorandum to minister of homeland security, the incumbent Chief Immigration Officer Masauko Medi which is dated July 17 2018 said Batatawalala through his African Commodity Agency had a contract of K4 billion dated 22 March 2010 and another contract dated March 26 2012 worth K5 billion and that [in a Cashgate style] "time went on without the supplier delivering the uniform as requested by the department."

Medi informed the Minister that Immigration Department received communication from African Commodities dated July 31 2017 requesting clearance of uniform and accessories imported and another letter from Reliance Trading Company to request MRA for duty free clearance of goods imported under contract.

He was shocked as the contracts were no longer valid in view of the five years that elapsed without receiving the goods and sought legal advice from the Attorney General.

The Attorney General advised the Immigration Department to reject the goods based on the lapsed time, advice the department followed.

Batatawala resorted to seek court battle but later agreed to negotiate with government for a possible out of court settlement, according to Medi's letter.

But Medi's memo said that it was during one of the meeting that the supplier produced a worksheet outlining total value of goods already arrived in Malawi at K46 billion while value of goods not arrived were at K7 billion.

He said the figures "alarmed the office of the Attorney General" and expanded the consultation group incorporating Auditor General, Secretary to Treasury and of Secretary of Homeland Security.

The letter informed that the stakeholders meeting agreed to inform PresidentMutharika in writing on the matter through Minister of Justice for his "knowledge and guidance" as the amount claimed by the supplier is beyond Immigration Department's budget provisions.

The matter is now back in court for full trial.

Batatawala declined to comment.


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