14 January 2017 Last updated at: 9:20 AM
Malawi war on tax defaulters: Selective justice is injustice
The embattled Chaponda administration – ooops, that came out wrong; the beleaguered Peter Mutharika administration – sorry this is outright inaccurate; the besieged and corrupt Chaponda/Mutharika administration, reeling under pressure due to its stellar performance in escalating corruption with the latest episode being the shady management of the maize importation from Zambia has seized Times Group property and closed Times Group offices at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre.
True to form, this sick administration abused yet another government agency, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to try and get even with the Times Group.
The Times Group was the first to break the story and despite an injunction, or rather after vacating the injunction, it continued faithfully informing the public the developments on what is now being termed as maize-gate as the maze unfolded.
The MRA Officials descended on Times Group offices at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre on Friday morning, accompanied by heavily-armed police officers who stood guard at all entry and exit points, while others escorted tax collectors as they took records and seized vehicles.
“MRA has seized our offices over taxes and yet we have been paying taxes every month. It is impunity and lawlessness on the part of the government. Just imagine, they came with a notice yesterday and, instead of offering us a chance for negotiations as they do in such cases — as you know that sometimes their figures can be wrong and you negotiate — they came 12 hours later to seize our property,” George Kasakula, Times Editor in Chief said.
He said this means The Times Group has stopped all operations, including broadcasting on live broadcasts on Times Radio and Times Television, and production work on Malawi News, which comes out on Saturday. Recorded programmes were being beamed on Times Television while music is just playing on Times Radio.
Journalists working on Malawi News stories can also not work from the newsroom because it has been seized and closed.
Kasakula said he suspected that the issue is linked to the maize scandal.
It involves a decision by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to buy maize at an exorbitant price in Zambia.
But Kasakula has vowed that The Times Group will not relent in pursuing the maize scandal, dubbed Maizegate, until its logical conclusion.
“We are being punished for publishing the truth about the maize scam, but we will continue publishing and broadcasting the truth,” Kasakula said.
Meanwhile, Times Group is doing everything to get back to work, according to Kasakula.
“Our lawyers are working on this and we pray that we should be back to work. Rest assured that Malawi News will come out tomorrow,” Kasakula said.
Wise One Analysis:
Monitoring debate on social media, I was surprised to read comments ranging from “IF Times was indeed not paying taxes, they had this coming!” to “If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones” from idiots that can only be agents of the corrupt.
My first instinct after reading the comment “If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones” was that this is by far the worst application of this proverb I have ever heard.
Were this coming from an App or had it been a computer-generated comment, I would have flinched at the incompetence of the programmer who designed such a defective application.
But no, this comment was made by a Homo sapiens, presumably with all his faculties intact.
My take? I suspect that persons who took this line are either very thick in the head or that they are primary beneficiaries of the rampant corruption that the Times Group and others have been fighting against.
For their trouble the revenge, in a classis DPP tit-for-tat, is the closure of offices by a government abusing the mandate of MRA.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, takes me to the second comment or its variations i.e. that if the Times Group was not paying taxes as any law abiding citizen should, then it shouldn’t cry foul.
Let me begin by saying that I am all for the MRA pursuing all tax defaulters to death. The problem I have however is that MRA, in this case, has exposed itself to accusations of being selective in pursuing defaulters.
I will not beat about the bush. Most if not all companies implicated in the MK236 billion cashgate – which the Chaponda/Mutharika administration wants us to forget – owe the MRA more than the K675 million that has led to the Times Group closure.
Case authority? Yes I have one, Batatawala, the untouchable, owes taxes in billions, yet the MRA treats him, his companies and associates as if he were some deity.
Batatawala, the untouchable, owes taxes in billions, yet the same administration abusing the MRA to beat the media into submission gives him orders in millions and billions of our taxes, and pays him billions of our tax money, at times for goods of questionable quality.
To conclude, if you say “IF the Times Group was indeed not paying taxes, they had this coming” tell me the date and time when the likes Batatawala will receive the just desserts, and I will hold my peace.
By the way, just the other day, this rogue government wrote off the bad loans that Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) have given to and failed to recover from its operatives like the Mullis, et al.
Calculate: how many times does the K675million go into the MSB toxic loans?
Of course you, the DPP zealots and sympathisers of this corrupt government will argue that two wrongs do not make a right, but who said closure is the only solution to recovering overdue taxes?
Ladies and gentlemen, if this same government managed to sell, for a song, our treasured Malawi Savings Bank, write off loans that Mulli and company owed us, pilfer K10billion through the Maizegate, sell tractors bought through a loan for a song; what is K675million to close a whole corporation that has stood for over 100 years and that meets its obligations in this troubled economic environment?
Whatever it is, all this is yet another proof that rather than prevent, curb or stop corruption, the powers that be prefer to muzzle all voices of reason so that they can continue looting with impunity.
Belated Happy New Year!
I rest my case.
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