Malawi sends investigators to SA to probe 250 missing passports
By Penelope Paliani Kamanga
Malawi’s Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security has sent a team of investigators to South Africa to probe a syndicate that led to a loss of 250 blank Malawian passport books last December, one of which was found in the hands of a Nigerian.
The can of worms about the missing blank passports was opened when outspoken People’s Party Member of Parliament for Mzimba West, Harry Mkandawire, brought the matter to Parliament, requesting the Minister of Home Affairs, Grace Chiumia, to explain the whereabouts of the consignment.
Mkandawire said the consignment received by the immigration department from Technobrain, the supplier of passport books, had one box containing 250 passports missing and that a stores officer declined to sign for it in fear of being held accountable for the loss.
The legislator told the assembly that he had information that one of the missing passports landed in the hands of a Nigerian traveling to London via Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was arrested and detained at an airport.
As evidence, Mkandawire circulated a copy of details of the passport of the Nigerian, who according to the passport, is Vincent Banda from Mangochi, a district in southern Malawi. The Nigerian was arrested and detained at OR Tambo Airport in South Africa while traveling to London via Johannesburg.
Principal secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Sam Madula, said the team of investigators, which includes police officers from the fiscal department and immigration officers, would among other things question the Nigerian currently in police custody in South Africa on where he got the passport number MW853507 from the missing passport books.
Madula said the Malawi government had already informed the South African government about the intended interrogation of the Nigerian and that Lilongwe and Pretoria had agreed to quiz the Nigerian.
“But we are also carrying out other investigations and the government will get to a logical conclusion of the investigations,” said Madula.
Unconfirmed reports state that chief immigration officer Masauko Medi signed for the consignment even though one box was missing as earlier, the stores officer refused to sign for the same consignment, a move that has since raised suspicion of a crime. Peoples Party ( PP) legislator Ralph Jooma from Mangochi Monkey Bay called for Medi to be investigated as he signed for the consignment with missing passport books.
He described the racket as a passport-gate under the watch of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, saying the government has done nothing even though it was aware of the matter.
“This matter borders on the security of Malawi and other neighbouring countries as both are prone to terrorist attacks if deals go sour,” said Jooma.
Meanwhile, there were reports that someone from a high office in the system was selling the passports at over K10 million each to foreigners, mainly Asians.
The Malawian passport is highly preferred as Malawians are viewed by many outsiders as trustworthy and unable to commit fraud or terrorist attacks.