Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked government to hold former president Peter Mutharika on the importation of cement worth over K5 billion from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Mutharika on Friday issued a statement through his personal secretary Linda Salanjira that affirmed that the immediate former president was not aware of any cement deals during his tenure.
In the statement, Mutharika seems to suggest being a victim of identity fraud in the scandal in which his personal bodyguard Norman Chisale was arrested and charged for.
Chisale is alleged to have a hand in the importation of K5 billion worth of cement allegedly using Mutharika duty-free status accorded to sitting presidents.
But a statement issued by HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said the coalition finds the cement transactions to be a clear case of abuse of entitlement.
“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 4000 00 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,” reads the statement in part.
Mutharika’s former press secretary Mgeme Kalilani is on record to have defended the cement importation issue, arguing that under Customs Procedure Code 418 of the Customs and Excise Tariff, the President is allowed to import goods duty-free.
Kalilani said he stands by that assertion.
HRDC’s Trapence said Kalilani’s stance was an official acceptance by Mutharika that “he understands and acknowledges the importation transactions of cement from abroad and that transactions were within the law as stipulated.”
Trapence said HRDC are therefore shocked and surprised with Mutharika’s statement feigning ignorance of MRA approval of clearance of duty-free cement using his taxpayer identification number (TPIN) without his consent.
He said Mutharika is alleging that “somebody hacked his TPIN and used it to import duty free cement from Zambia and Zimbabwe.”
Said Trapence: “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.”
Apart from Chisale, Fiscal also arrested businessperson Shaffe Chunara, owner of Prestige Imports and Exports and MRA former deputy director general Roza Mbilizi in connection with the controversial K5 billion duty-free cement saga.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :