The government has started targeting opponents of President Peter Mutharika using the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the latest victims being members of the Chilima Movement.
Letters leaked from MRA show that the tax collectors are demanding that former national secretary for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Richard Makondi and former Southern Region governor Ben Chindyaonga should pay up to K94 million and K1.3 billion, respectively, in penalties within three days.
Both Makondi and Chindyaonga, in separate interviews Wednesday, described the MRA claims as lies, saying that they never got the contracts they are being linked with and, therefore, they could not have evaded any taxes.
The letters, written by the Audit and Inspection Manager for Blantyre Domestic Taxes Department Mike Chipolo, indicate that Chindyaonga was engaged to supply and deliver conductors to the Malawi Defence Force from July 2016 to June 2017 and the contract sum was K3,381,807,500.
“Following this, we have raised an assessment based on the information we have and 40 percent of the gross income has been determined as the taxable income…MK1,352,807,500.00 has been determined as the taxable income which has been added back to the previous taxable income, thereby adjusting the tax payable upwards to MK811,521,800.00 which is inclusive of penalties,” reads the letter, dated June 12 2018, in part.
But Chidyaonga, who has been actively supporting the Chilima Movement, yesterday sounded surprised when asked about the tax evasion issue.
“Which contract is this and which deal did I get [into] to owe MRA all that money? All this is made up and it’s just a gimmick by government to frustrate those who are working with Chilima,” Chidyaonga said.
In another letter, written on June 8 2018 and addressed to Makondi— who has come out in support of Chilima— MRA accuses Makondi of getting a contract to supply conductors valued at K392,340,000 to Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (Marep) Phase Eight from July 2016 to June 2017.
“Following this determination, K156,936,000.00 has been determined as taxable income which has been added back to the previous taxable income, thereby adjusting the tax payable upwards to K94,049,600.00 which is inclusive of penalties,” reads part of the letter signed by Chipolo.
Makondi accused the government of making up accusations against those against the President.
“I bid for this contract but I did not win. In other words, I was not awarded the contract and, therefore, I did not evade any taxes as claimed. My lawyer has already written MRA to find out what they are trying to say; they are confusing me with someone.”
MRA Head of Corporate Affairs, Steve Kapoloma, Wednesday declined to comment when asked about the letters written to Makondi and Chidyaonga, saying, under the taxation Act, MRA is not permitted to discuss taxpayers’ affairs with anybody.
He also could not answer why the two got the letters when, according to them, they were not involved in the business they are being linked with.
But ironically last week, Kapoloma went to town on Times Group when the tax collectors shut the operations of the media house over an old tax dispute.
Another Chilima Movement supporter who was targeted Wednesday was Blantyre Misesa Ward Councillor Lewis Ngalande.
Armed police personnel, accompanied by MRA officers, went to his home where they wanted to grab his cars over suspected tax arrears.
Ngalande said officials who went to his premises in Chigumula Township, Blantyre, wanted to grab three of his vehicles— a Toyota Fortuner, a Mercedes Benz and a five-tonne truck.
“I have been using these vehicles for party (DPP) affairs. I was never questioned, not even [on a single] a day. Why do they come now? I do not doubt it is because I have joined the Chilima Movement. This is very unfair and pure witch-hunting,” he said.
Kapoloma confirmed that they went to Ngalande’s premises to check on a Toyota Fortuner, saying they suspect that import duty was not paid.
“They found the vehicle, a Toyota Fortuner, which has no number plate. So, the officers asked for keys of the vehicle so as to check the chassis and engine number. It is a common practice to check the [chassis and engine] number and check in our system whether the vehicle was paid for. As they were waiting for the keys, some people started appearing with pangas [and], so, the officers retreated. They came again with more police officers, only to find that the vehicle had been taken away,” he said.