Human Rights Defenders Coalition (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 or more than 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.
When the media exposed this story, HRDC hesitantly and with a great sense of caution, noted that the then President and, again, MRA made a position of defense that was within the law.
We quote former President Mutharika speaking through his spokesperson, Mgeme Kalilani, in Nation newspaper, dated June 17 2020:
“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.”
As HRDC we understand that the response meant two things:
Official acceptance by Mutharika that he understands and acknowledges the importation transactions of cement from abroad.
Official acceptance that the transactions were within the law as stipulated above.
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.
We find the cement transactions to be a clear case of abuse of entitlement and an unprecedented level of recklessness on part of a Head of State.
Not just as a Head of State but also as a lawyer, Mutharika was and is well versed that privileges of a Head of State, by law, cannot be delegated to anybody in whatsoever manner.
That is why we find Mutharika’s statement as a ploy to divert the public from the cement saga where he is the chief player. As a leader, Mutharika cannot feign ignorance on what was happening under his regime. As such he must take responsibility for the maladministration the country experienced under him.
As HRDC, therefore, we are calling on government to act decisively to ensure that Mutharika is held to account on this cement saga.
Gift Trapence Luke Tembo
HRDC Chairperson HRDC National Coordinator
Happy Mhango – Chair North
Madalitso Banda – Chair East
Masauko Thawe – Chair South
Billy Mayaya – Chair Centre
Released on 27th July 2020