Disturbing details are emerging on how business people connected to State House were using former President Peter Mutharika’s duty-free status to import tons of cement in the country between 2018 and 2019 from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima during the campaign period of the June 23 presidential rerun was the first to reveal that Mutharika imported 40 000 metric tons of cement worth K3.2 billion. The matter later was picked by the press.
However, details seen by Nyasa Times shows that the cement was procured by a certain businessperson, Mohammed Shafee Ahmed Chunara, who owns a cement business.
Documents we have seen show that 1.7 million cement bags were imported in a period of six months for a value of K5 billion by Chunara.
And all this was cleared by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) at the Mchinji border as President Mutharika’s cement.
The details indicate that the money was paid to LaFarge Headquarters in Lusaka, but the cement would be collected from LaFarge’s depot in Chipata to take to warehouses in Lilongwe.
However, Mutharika claims that he doesn’t know that his TPIN was used to import K5 billion worth of cement, yet the application for tax exemption on the imports came from State House and was duly processed at MRA.
Malawians on social media have already started questioning the transactions and want answers from the public tax collector and the business persons implicated.
Writing on his Facebook account, social commentator Idriss Ali Nassah said:“We have questions about the 70 trucks carrying cement worth K200 million imported duty-free into Malawi using Peter Mutharika’s name.
“Mohammed Shafee Ahmed Chunara of Lilongwe will tell us who gave him Peter Mutharika’s MRA TPIN to use to import cement worth over K5 billion duty-free. The cement was then sold off at wholesale.
“Chunara will also tell us who the beneficial owners of this deal were,” he wrote.
In the initial transaction in November 2018, the President bought 20 000 metric tonnes (MT) or 200 000 bags of cement worth $2 240 000 (about K1.68 billion) from PTC Zimbabwe Limited duty-free. In the second transaction in July 2019, Mutharika bought the same quantity from Prestige Export based at Chipata in Zambia.
The Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act allows the President “duty free importation of items for personal use”.
A private practice lawyer John-Gift Mwakhwawa had said the volume involved raised doubts on the “personal use” provision in the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act and had called for an investigation.
But before Mutharika was ousted from power in the June 23 fresh presidential election, State House and MRA on June 16 justified the transaction as “within the law”, as it was for personal use.
Meanwhile, deputy commissioner general Roza Mbilizi was being quizzed by Malawi Police Service, Fiscal and Fraud Section, in connection with cement imported duty-free.
Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has since been furnished with all documentation from whistle blowers on the cement-gate scandal to commence an investigation.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :