“I don’t want to be seen as defending my company or my driver, but the truth will judge us”, said bishop Simama, the proprietor of a haulage company that transported the bags of fertilizer at the centre of the controversy.
It has now emerged that of the 600 bags that were returned from Mangochi a total of 114 had their contents mixed with sad. In fact, according to him and the police there was more sand than fertilizer in the bags.
Both he and police seem to put the blame on the manufacturer, Optichem Malawi Limited. However, Optichem Malawi Limited is not taking things lying down. Productions manager Snowden Samuel vehemently denies allegations that the company is in the wrong.
“In my reaction yesterday (Sunday) I said I have four reasons as to why we believe this fertilizer is now ours”, he said, “Number one, the thread these people were using is not the one we normally use; number two, if you check the bag you see that there are two lines of stitching; number three, the bag which being suspended are quite different with the rest, they are short; and four, our stitching we do it on top, now these guys were doing it below,” he challenged.
Mr. Samuel also denied allegations by police and Simama that they found traces of sand in another lot of fertilizer packed the factory site during an investigation on Sunday.
“Sand in the factory…? Maybe they do not know that fertilizer is”, he argued: “We are the manufacturers; we keep different types of raw materials”.
Officer In-charge for Mangochi Police Ephraim Chipojola who travelled to Blantyre insisted bags of fertilizer mixed with sand were found at the factory site.
“We went as far as the Optichem factory to verify how they pack their bags. Whilst there we also found , indeed, the very same soil and it seems maybe it’s between the factory and revolving fund area where something else happened and we are yet to come up with real answer.
He said Bumbwe Research Station is expected to come up with the results of their tests after seven days.
The Officer in-charge said anyone found guilty will be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, the driver of the track Gilbert Mango is still in police custody.
Bishop Simama said his company uses a satellite tracking system to check all stopovers of their cars, saying the track going to Mangochi stopped nowhere until it reached its destination.
The bags, meant for the farm input subsidy programme, were exposed after one them busted as they were being offloaded at Katuli Admarc Depot in Mangochi prompting police to launch investigations.
Mr. Samuel claimed the sand found at the company’s factory could have come from sweepings not intentionally packed with the fertilizer.
Meanwhile, government has warned that anyone found to have tempered with subsidized fertilizer will pay heavy penalties.
According to Ministry of Agriculture Public Relations Officer Sarah Tione as part of their contract with transporters and suppliers, those who lose or damage the commodity will pay twice the commercial price.
Going by simple calculations those responsible for the Mangochi incident will have to cough close to three million kwacha for the 114 bags.
Officials of the small holder farmers fertilizer revolving fund have not commented yet