Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) board chairperson Eric Chapola has resigned from his position in compliance with a Treasury directive to do so.
Chapola, a chartered insurer who is chief executive officer of Nico Life Insurance Company Limited—a subsidiary of listed financial services and investment group Nico Holdings plc—confirmed yesterday that he tendered his resignation after being asked by the Secretary to the Treasury (ST) Ben Botolo to do so.
He said: “It is true I have resigned from the position of MRA board chairperson. I was asked to resign… No reasons were given for the decision.
“What I can say is that they [government] approached me for the appointment in the first place and I accepted to serve. This time around, they have also requested me to leave and I have done just that.”
The decision to ask Chapola to leave the public tax collector comes weeks after the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) Lloyd Muhara terminated the contract of his sister and former first lady Callista Mutharika—the widow of former president Bingu wa Mutharika and incumbent President Peter Mutharika’s sister-in-law—over her involvement with the newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) that is promoting the presidential candidacy of Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
When asked whether he regretted leaving the public tax collector, Chapola said he had no regrets.
He said: “It is the prerogative of the appointing authorities to serve in such boards and if they [authorities] ask you to quit, you have to do just that. This is what I have done.”
Chapola refused to comment on whether his sister’s political friction with the President and the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that has since cost her the job as a presidential adviser on safe motherhood could be linked to his removal. He said Treasury was better placed to give reasons for asking him to leave.
But a source in the MRA establishment confided that Chapola was asked to leave because of his sister’s political affiliation. The source said professional advice and decisions the board chairperson provided since his sister’s switch in allegiance was perceived with political lens; hence, “his position became untenable”.
Yesterday, Botolo denied requesting Chapola to resign. When it was put to him that he is the one who contacted Chapola on the issue, the ST referred the matter to Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe.
While acknowledging Chapola’s relationship with Callista as brother and sister, Gondwe yesterday feigned ignorance on the matter, claiming that he resigned voluntarily.
Said the minister: “I was told yesterday that he has resigned, which is surprising… But not surprising as much as you know he is a brother to Callista so maybe he is not emotionally comfortable to work with us [DPP administration]. But he was hardworking. We started to pick up good figures [in terms of tax revenue].”
Chapola was appointed to the MRA board on August 8 2017 alongside Standard Bank deputy head of corporate and investment banking and head of client coverage Linda Magombo-Manda, G4S Secure Logistics finance director Montfort Howahowa and private practice lawyer Charles Chayekha. The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, ST and Principal Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism complete the MRA board composition.
Besides Callista, the OPC has also fired two other UTM supporters in George Saonda who served as director of administration in the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs deputy director of administration Chiza Mbekeani.
In a letter Ref No. CS/S/001 dated September 19 2018 signed by Muhara, Mbekeani was initially advised: “I write to inform you that pursuant to Article III of the local employment contract agreement that you signed with government, your services as deputy director of administration [Grade E/P4] are no longer required and have consequently been terminated.
“This follows your active involvement in politics contrary to Section 193 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and circular letter Ref.No. CS/S/001 dated 28th June 2018 on public servants and the 2019 Tripartite Elections…”
However, the Chief Secretary on September 28 2018 wrote Mbekeani again alongside Saonda, stating that their employment contracts were terminated because their services were “no longer required”.
In June this year, Muhara issued a circular letter to all heads of government institutions advising civil servants who wish to seek political office to resign before doing so.
But our findings indicate that civil servants openly aligned to DPP have been spared.
In September, our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday exposed how OPC failed to discipline Ministry of Health chief director responsible for safe motherhood Chimwemwe Chipungu and his deputy director Clement Mwale for their active participation in politics.
Chipungu is DPP national organising secretary while Mwale contested for the position of secretary general at the DPP convention, but lost.
Deputy director responsible for Public Events, Zeria Chakale, is also a DPP national governing council (NGC) member.