Talking Blues: Now is the time to take back what’s ours


Imagine selling one ream of papers to a government ministry at MK100. The ministry pays you. You had bought it at MK40, and so you made MK60.

Later, you connive with the minister and invoice again for the same carton at the same price. When paid, you split fifty-fifty. Since you had already made MK60, your cash now becomes MK110.

Greed overwhelms your poor souls again, and you raise the third invoice on that same ream. MK50 a piece takes your cash to MK160. The minister now has a cool MK100.

Like a thief in the night, a taxman comes calling. By the taxman’s reckoning, your sales total MK300. He investigates and finds that whatever you sold cost you MK40. Hence, MK300 – MK40, your profit for tax purposes is MK260.

Let’s say the tax rate is 50% of the profit. He calculates and says you must render MK260 x 50% = MK130 to Caesar.

You look at this amount and wonder how come when all you have is MK160?

You suddenly remember that you greased the minister’s palms with MK50 for each fake invoice, and hence, your “profit” is MK260 – MK100 = MK160. However, you can’t tell anyone.

But neither are you willing to part with MK130 and remain with MK30 as profit after tax. At this point, it dawns on you that without the two fake invoices and with your honestly earned MK60 profit, after the tax @50%, you’d have remained with the same MK30! In other words, like a dog that chases its’ tail, yours has been a successful quest in futility!

You ask the tax collector for time.

You visit the minister and demand that he contributes to the tax bill from his share of the crime, or you will spill the beans. We all know our Ministers. There is no way they would want to part with money, even if they still had it.

He makes a vague promise, saying: “I will look into it.”

Do you know what the ‘looking into it’ looks like? The minister calls the taxman, chastises and instructs him to lay off. The poor tax man has two choices:

  1. a) Disobey and risk the minister’s ire, or
  2. b) Tail between legs, leave you in peace.

Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) staffers reading this column can relate.

Before I unpack, a minor detour to Rome will do us good.

In the first century BCE, the Mediterranean Sea was a gangsters’ paradise with pirates roaming freely and terrorizing anyone who wandered into their hood. A region called Cilicia Trachea, i.e., Rough Cilicia, was hell for seafarers.

In 75 BCE, Cilician pirates captured a 25-year-old Roman nobleman, Julius Caesar, sailing to study oratory in Rhodes.

Those pirates lived to rue the day.

Right from the word go, Caesar refused to behave like a captive. Upon learning that the pirates had set his ransom at 20 talents (roughly USD30 million), he scoffed at them for not knowing the true worth of their captive and insisted that they demand 50 talents (roughly USD70 million).

Ransom amount agreed, Caesar despatched an entourage to gather the money while he waited in captivity.

The pirates were dumbfounded. What kind of captive negotiates their ransom upwards?

Caesar made himself at home among the pirates, bossing them around and shushing them when he wanted to sleep. He forced them to listen to speeches and poems he composed as he waited for the ransom and berated them as illiterates if they did not seem sufficiently impressed with his speeches and poetry.

He was even partaking in the pirates’ games and exercises where he made a point of addressing them as if they were his subordinates and he the commander.

He would spice his rude manners with insults, and he threatened to have them all crucified for good measure. All this coming from a captive seemed like a joke to the pirates.

It wasn’t.

Five and half weeks later, the ransom was delivered, and Caesar was freed and check this: once he reached Miletus, he raised a naval force despite holding no public or military office and went after the pirates.

He found them still camped at the island where he had been captive, captured them, and brought them back as captives! By some accounts, Caesar recovered a substantial portion of the ransom money paid for his release.

Caesar personally had them all crucified when the then governor of Asia seemed to dither on punishing the pirates.

Back home, you are aware that Zuneth Sattar is not walking alone. The hitherto untouchable Abdul Karim Batatawala, as we speak, has yet to find the mouth with which to narrate his ordeal.

Now, I don’t want to speculate about the specifics nor the much-wanted list of Zuneth Sattar’s Malawian beneficiaries. Instead, my focus is on MRA.

Vis-à-vis Zuneth Sattar and Abdul Karim Batatawala – we might as well add Zameer Karim; it is clear that the Director of Public Prosecutions Dr. Steven Kayuni, the Attorney General Mr. Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s Madam Martha Chizuma and the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) are serious about:

  • incarcerating all thieves,
  • clawing back what’s ours, and
  • handing me the thieves’ cell keys for despatch into the Shire River.

The unprecedented chutzpah, gumption, and diligence displayed by these relatively young people occupying offices where many others have dismally failed is why I shared the story of youthful Julius Caesar’s:

  • refusal to be intimidated by cheap pirates, cousins of the lowlives that have been looting our coffers, and
  • unquenchable zeal for justice and restoration for those inconvenienced by parasitic leeches.

Even Julius Caesar would lift his hat off to Kayuni, Nyirenda, and Chizuma because they share modus operandi of:

1) being unapologetic to criminals,

2) resourcefulness,

3) suddenly falling on criminals like a tonne of bricks, and

4) ignoring all noise; just focusing on getting the job done.

Do you know what’s or who’s missing in this equation?

The MRA.

Lowlives like those stealing our wealth rarely pay their fair share of taxes. Like in the opening tale where the partner in crime interfered with the taxman, their accomplices in high places harass MRA officials who dare assess the taxes these and other lowlives owe us.

Only that the amounts are not in hundreds; we are talking billions!

Therefore, now that the long arm of the law has finally started to catch up with these villains, MRA should quickly move in to collect the long-overdue taxes because it is grossly unfair when the poor pay VAT on practically everything only to find no medicine in hospitals because connected crooks who dodge taxes are stealing taxes they didn’t contribute on.

Bwana MRA Commissioner-General, the MRA is missing in action; join the quest to claim back what’s ours OR move over and let a new broom take charge.


One Comment

  1. Make sure that you also equally de-humanize your own ministers who are playing equal part and most likely planning and initiating these crimes with your Asian brothers. For a foreigner will not on his own have plans to defraud a government, it is clear that the national is involved ie. the minister. The biggest corrupt, despicable low life in the whole picture, who planned the crime of defrauding the country for millions and billions, thereby abusing his power of office. Its time to catch the real culprits – the Malawian government officials who are planning these crimes and getting away with it, leaving the Asian businessmen as scape goats.

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