Thirteen opposition political parties, including People’s Party (PP) and Alliance for Democracy (Aford), have warned President Peter Mutharika’s administration against repressive actions and persecutions reminiscent of the one-party State.
In a statement issued yesterday in the wake of what they described as “entrenched and overreaching tendency” by the regime to harass critics using State agents such as Malawi Police Service (MPS) and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the parties noted that Mutharika’s administration was showing traits of a one party regime.
But both government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi and presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani dismissed the accusations, arguing there is nothing political in the actions because tax compliance is a legal obligation for every citizen.
Besides PP and Aford, some of the 13 parties include Progressive People’s Movement (PPM), Malawi Forum for Unity and Development (Mafunde), People’s Transformation (Petra) and Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD).
The parties said MRA actions raise several implications in that within the DPP there may be individuals who have previously violated the law or evaded taxes but are being shielded by the party machinery.
Further, the parties claim the Executive arm of government is fully aware of such individuals but is shielding them from criminal prosecution because they belong to the governing party or are tribesmen or cronies of DPP leaders.
In this regard, the parties have appealed to the international community and donors to step up their scrutiny over the Mutharika’s regime because “democratic gains previously made have been considerably depleted”.
“From the foregoing, any critic outside above circles remains a sure target of misplaced MRA’s wrath or indeed of any other government agency. The agencies on orders from their masters will make sure severe economic damage is inflicted on the victim,” reads the statement signed leaders and representatives of the parties.
In the past weeks, MRA has invaded the residence of DPP national youth director Louis Ngalande attempting to grab his vehicles over suspected tax evasion.
Similarly, the public tax collector also wrote the party’s national organising secretary Richard Makondi and former Southern Region governor Ben Chidyaonga demanding that they pay K94 million and K1.3 billion, respectively, in penalties within three days, claiming they evaded taxes after they were offered contracts between 2016 and 2017.
Over the years, the three have been part of the eminent and elite squad of the DPP until few weeks ago when they switched their allegiance to the Chilima Movement that is canvassing for Vice-President Saulos Chilima to contest in the 2019 presidential race. In addition, the MRA has also raided offices or residences of other individuals or institutions such as Times Group for being critical of the government.
The parties observed that such abuses of government agencies, unless stopped, violate the right of freedom of expression and threaten the democracy and liberty.
“No wonder Malawi’s democracy to date has failed to deliver the
democratic dividends… These archaic tactics are anti-progressive and extremely harmful to the economy and peoples livelihoods,” reads the statement.
But in an interview, Kalilani said the political leaders were not being honest because the truth of the matter is the said critics have had conflicts with the law as demonstrated in that majority of them are either under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau or have long-standing and active tax evasion issues with MRA.
He said: “I wonder if the political leaders are suggesting that MRA should not enforce tax compliance requirements on some defaulting individuals and companies because in the opinion of the political leaders, the involved individuals or companies are government critics. That is not acceptable.”
On his part, Dausi said there was nothing about harassing people with different political opinion wondering whether it was wrong for MRA to be reminding people to be tax compliant.
But National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said they would make necessary comments upon receiving the statement from the concerned political parties.