IT’S PAYBACK TIME…Agrizam trying to recoup what they financed UPND – Changala

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Brebner Changala
Brebner Changala

IT’S PAYBACK TIME
…Agrizam trying to recoup what they financed UPND – Changala

By Ernest Chanda

GOOD governance activist Brebner Changala says it is payback time for companies that supported the UPND in 2021, including Agrizam Investments Limited.

In 2022, government contracted Agrizam to supply fertiliser to the Eastern Province and later advised management to quicken the process of delivering the commodity in full by November 30, as stipulated in the supply contract for the 2022/2023 farming season.

The company had by October 25, 2022 only supplied 5,866.20 metric tonnes from the expected 29,181.45 metric tonnes of Compound D fertilisers, giving a balance of 23,315.25 metric tonnes.

For urea, Agrizam had only supplied 248 metric tonnes from the expected 29,933.45 metric tonnes, leaving a balance of 28,933.45 metric tonnes.

This year again, the government single sourced and contracted Agrizam to supply 29,181.45 metric tonnes of fertiliser to the same province.

And out of this, Agrizam delivered 19,124.20 metric tonnes as at October 27, 2023, representing a deficit of 10,057.25 metric tonnes.

On November 6, 2023, The Mast sent a press query to Agrizam managing director Ibrahim Lunat through WhatsApp, which he did not respond to despite the message showing that he had read it. The press query sent at 12:08 hours read: “Good afternoon, Mr Lunat. This is Ernest Chanda, a journalist from The Mast newspaper. We’ve spoken before. I have delivery figures on fertliser in Eastern Province for the 2023/2024 farming season, which show that as at 27th October, 2023, Agrizam had only delivered 19,124.20 metric tonnes from the 29,181.45 metric tonnes you were contracted by government to supply; giving a deficit of 10,057.25 metric tonnes. Below are my questions: 1. May I know if you delivered the balance before or by the October 31st deadline? 2. If you did not manage, what challenges did you face? Kind regards.”

And records at the Patents and Companies Registration Agency show that the owners of Agrizam are also owners of Transworld Petroleum, a company energy minister Peter Kapala is alleged to have helped in getting a contract to supply petroleum products.

But Changala views the single sourcing as an act of rewarding those firms which financed the ruling party in ahead of the 2021 general election.

“These single sourcing contracts are corruptly done by the UPND administration to reward those who facilitated and financed their attainment of power. They are not genuine but they are using the treasury for the men and women who supported them to recoup their finances. And that is high level white collar crime that is at display,” he said. “Then when you come to Agrizam, again, this is a relationship between the UPND, the president of the UPND and this colleague of ours from… The challenge I put forward is, let both gentlemen clear their names that they never released one cent to the UPND campaign coffers; and whether that money was not paid either directly to the party president Mr Hakainde Hichilema or to the candidates individually – parliamentary candidates.”

He said the relationship between UPND and Agrizam resonates with every parliamentary candidate who participated in the 2021 elections.

Changala claimed that UPND parliamentary candidates got money from Agrizam and Agrofuel for campaigns.

“This could resonate to every member who is in that parliament as a UPND elected member, even to those who lost the election. They got money from these individuals. This is a known fact. And let these two individuals, the owners of Agrofuel and Agrizam… no wonder they’re getting single sourced contracts which are not competitive because they are there to recoup the finances that they injected into UPND,” Changala said. “When all is said and done at an appropriate time the truth will come out because you can’t hide when you’re syphoning state funds. In the meantime you’re arresting others who would have done the same at some point when they held those offices. You are arresting people for failing to account, you are arresting people for failing to follow procedure. You destroyed people’s careers on flimsy allegations. But what we are seeing today that is grand corruption that is being shielded by the President and the Anti-Corruption Commission.”

He warned Anti-Corruption Commission director general Tom Shamakamba and his team of possible arrest for neglect of duty.

“We must warn the Anti-Corruption Commission, should there be regime change and at that point they start pursuing these two individuals it will be persecution. And whoever is holding office at the Anti-Corruption Commission must be arrested at that point in time for dereliction of duty, incompetence, and they must lose whatever benefits will accrue to them,” he said. “I’m directly putting this message forward to Tom Shamakamba to do what is right. He has let us down on the Solicitor General [Marshal Muchende], a matter that is very clear that he has shielded that gentleman with the help of the President. How many people and how many crimes are they going to get under the carpet, only to come and rise when there’s regime change they start pursuing individuals? That will not be accepted.”

And Changala defended Kapala, saying he is just being used in the oil transactions.

He mentioned President Hakainde Hichilema as the main culprit in the transaction.

“But I must also put it on record that Mr Kapala, the man you are trying to crucify, is just a pawn who has been used by the Head of State. And this is the more reason that no matter how much you complain he (President Hichilema) cannot act because Kapala is nothing but a conveyor belt of the evils and schemes that are perpetrated by the Head of State,” said Changala. “The main culprit here, truth be told, is Mr Hakainde Hichilema. When the truth will become clearer to everybody to see you’ll realise that Kapala is just an office bearer and a facilitator of presidential instructions. They’re working in tandem with the Head of State. The buck stops at Community House.”

Recently, Zambian Civil Liberties Union deputy executive director Maurice Makalu requested Chief Justice Mumba Malila to set up a tribunal for Kapala for breaching the parliament and ministerial code of conduct.

Makalu alleges that Kapala has breached the code by assisting companies to acquire pecuniary advantage in the supply of low-sulphur diesel.

“Brief facts of the complaint: In the year 2022, after a public tender, Agrofuel Investments Limited was awarded a contract to supply and deliver 100,000 metric tonnes of Low Sulphur Gas Oil and to finalise the conversion of the TAZAMA Pipeline to become a carrier of finished products. However, Minister Kapala, on dates unknown, facilitated an additional single-sourced contract for Agrofuel Investments Limited to supply diesel which contract was later reported by the Daily Nation Newspaper, one of Zambia’s leading newspapers, and the Zambian Business Times as having been suspended between September 15 to 21 2023,” he said. “…on September 1, 2023, Minister Kapala offered approval to Devon Oil Zambia Limited, to supply, in partnership with Glencore Energy UK Limited, 100,000 metric tonnes of diesel in the month of September 2023. While the fuel-carrying vessel was marooned at sea in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, minister Kapala, by the attached letter dated October 2, 2023, cancelled the offer and approval he granted to Devon Oil Zambia…soon after cancelling the fuel supply approval to Devon, minister Kapala turned back to Agrofuel Investments Limited.”

Makalu outlined other details to concretise his complaint.

“Another letter authored under the hand of minister Kapala has surfaced indicating that the minister had, on November 2, 2023, once again, unilaterally given approval to another oil company, Transworld Petroleum Limited, to supply 100,000 metric tonnes of gas oil in December 2023. My Lord the Chief Justice, these approvals were uncompetitive and irregularly executed,” Makalu explained. “Further, the actions by the minister amount to abuse of office and breach of Section 4(a)(e) of the parliamentary and ministerial code of conduct Act, requiring investigations by a competent Tribunal set up in accordance with the law.”

Makalu insisted that Kapala’s actions assisted other companies which should have been subjected to competition like others.

“…In light of the alleged breaches, we request Your Lordship, to appoint a tribunal to investigate the matter under Sections 13(1)(3) and 14 of the parliamentary and ministerial code of conduct Act,” wrote Makalu. “We fervently believe that we have adequately made our case and this step is crucial for upholding the rule of law, which the Republican President, His Excellency, Mr Hakainde Hichilema has committed his administration will uphold and defend during his tenure as President. Your Lordship, we now await your response.-The Mast

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