Traders who operate at Taifa Market in Mzuzu on Friday ganged up and besieged Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) offices after the tax collector’s officials confiscated goods some customers had bought at the market.
MRA was demanding tax for the goods.
Two men whose goods were seized went back to the market to report.
This angered the traders who closed their shops and went to MRA offices demanding the release of the goods.
Fearing for their lives, MRA officials locked themselves in their offices as police guarded the building.
Some traders rushed to a nearby filling station to buy petrol to set the offices ablaze.
But police acted quickly and surrounded the offices. Later, a police vehicle arrived, picked two MRA officials and leaders of the market for discussions.
One trader at the market, Tiyezge Nyirenda, said MRA was bent on putting them out of business.
“Just like many people who come to buy from us, these people keep us in businesses. I am a widow and have children. If people who buy from us are harassed, where are we going to get our food if they stop buying our goods? Is government helping us?” Nyirenda said.
She said this was not the first time MRA officials had seized goods from the market.
One of the men whose goods MRA seized, Pearson Wilson, said they were taking the merchandise to Mzuzu Bus Depot when the authority’s officials pounced on them.
“They asked for receipts and we showed them. Then they asked if the people who sold us the goods had paid tax. When we could not explain, they grabbed our goods. We went to Taifa Market where we bought the goods and explained what had happened; hence, the commotion,” said Wilson.
He claimed that this was not the first time they had faced the wrath of MRA officials. According to Wilson, the last time this happened, they paid MRA K4 000 (about $9.52).
MRA officials in Mzuzu refused to comment on the matter and referred Nation on Sunday to spokesperson Steve Kapoloma.
Kapoloma said MRA received a tip-off that someone had entered the country with goods and was at Mzuzu Bus Depot heading to the Southern Region.
“So, MRA officials went there and confiscated the goods after [the traders] failed to show receipts,” said Kapoloma.
Asked why MRA later released the goods if the traders did not have supporting documents, he said the decision was made in collaboration with police to calm the situation.