Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked government to hold former president Peter Mutharika to account for the K5 billion cement saga.
In a press statement issued yesterday, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said the human rights body finds the cement transactions to be a clear case of abuse of entitlement.
Reads the statement: “HRDC has read and noted with great shock and surprise a statement released by former president Peter Mutharika distancing himself from an apparent case of abuse of his own privileges.
“As HRDC, we know that Mutharika imported about 400 000 bags of cement worth K3.2 billion duty-free from Zambia and Zimbabwe between 2018 and 2019. The President and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) justified the transaction as within the law,” it reads in part.
The Nation reported on June 17 2020 about the cement saga where Mutharika’s former press secretary Mgeme Kalilani defended the cement importation, arguing that under Customs Procedure Code 418 of the Customs and Excise Tariff, the President is allowed to import goods duty-free.
“The goods were imported under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act chapter 2 sub-section 2 part 7 of the schedule. Under this law, the President is entitled to import goods for personal use duty-free,” he was quoted as saying.
Trapence said Mgeme’s earlier response was an official acceptance by Mutharika that “he understands and acknowledges the importation transactions of cement from abroad and that the transactions were within the law as stipulated”.
“As HRDC, we are therefore shocked and surprised with Mutharika’s statement feigning ignorance of the MRA approved clearance of duty-free cement, using his taxpayer identification number (TPIN) without his consent.
“In simple words, Mutharika is alleging that somebody hacked his TPIN and used it to import duty free cement from Zambia and Zimbabwe. As HRDC, we reject Mutharika’s statement because we find it as a futile attempt to divert the public from matters he was in control of,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Lazarus Chakwera warned on Saturday that those who stole public funds should return what they stole, saying the law will take its course on them