The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) on Friday shut down Malawi media giant Times Group , demanding K675 million in unpaid taxes but the publishers of Daily Times newspaper accused the authorities of trying to silence it.
The outstanding bill is on non-payment for Value Added Tax, Corporate Tax, Fringe Benefit Tax, Withholding Tax, Pay As You Earn for specified periods between January 2011 to March 2016.
” It is true that MRA has sealed our offices . Yesterday they brought a claim that we owe them tax but before we reconcile it, they came this morning to seal our offices. They have taken some of our cars and all our staff are out of the newsroom and offices,” Editor-In-Chief of Times Group, George Kasakula told Nyasa Times in an interview through Skype.
Tax officials told Nyasa Times that the ” distraint action” is taken for failure to settle a tax liability amounting to MK 675, 969, 316.75 comprising K504, 962,332.87 as taxes due and K171, 006,983.89 as penalties and interests
MRA spokesman Steven Kapoloma said the tax-body has sealed the offices of the news organisation and seized vehicles belonging to the company in order to force the company to remit the unpaid taxes.
He said the Taxation Act, Section 107 (3) (a) authorizes the collection of taxes by distraint on all properties or rights to property of a taxpayer
“The distraint action relates to recent tax liabilities uncovered through a comprehensive audit. The Company has a history of non-compliance since 2009 and has always sought court injunctions to frustrate efforts by MRA to collect the taxes due,” said Kapoloma.
But Kasakula fears there is a media clamp down especially on Times titles such as Malawi News , Sunday Times and Daily Times newspapers which are fiercely critical of the government of President Peter Mutharika.
”MRA is being used by government. This is an attempt by Peter Mutharika government to clamp down a company that employs over 300 people and being a watchdog of the society,” said Kasakula.
Times Group which also operates a television Times TV and Times radio has its roots from Malawi first President the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda and his family.
Government officials are said to be running scared on a television talk show ‘Hot Current’ on Times TV which is gaining popularity in Malawi as following the ‘truth telling’ discussion which is hosted by marverick broadcaster Brian Banda.
The program which is featuring Kasakula is showing brave and substantive journalistic endeavours (often at great personal risk) and discussing matters of current which are hitting headlines, taking government into task on accountability and corruption.
Kasakula is also attracting wrath of those wielding power recklessly, even criminally, with complete impunity and unaccountability as he is putting them on spot with his no holds barred critique.
In the recent program which apart from being on Times TV, it was also aired on Times Radio and shared on YouTube, Kasakula weighed on the maize procurement saga that has hit Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and Ministry of Agriculture.
Kasakura , who is also columnist in Malawi News, accused President Mutharika of failing to make “tough decisions” as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and civil society organisations want Admarc ceo Foster Mulumbe and Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister George Chaponda to be removed from their positions to pave the way for investigations into the matter.
“President Mutharika cannot take tough decisions. Changing cabinet or firing minister of information for poor communication is not tough decision. This was the time [for Mutharika] to show that I am my own man.This needed a decision from a President,” said Kasakura.
And host Brian Banda remarked in agreement: “This is the time when a man called Peter Mutharika should rise up.”
Kasakula also accused Mutharika and his administration of “trying to kill” by creating food shortage with the maizegate scandal.
“We have a government that let us down. Mutharika and DPP want to kill Malawians through hunger ,” said Kasakula.
He urged Malawians not to let mediocrity take charge.
“We need to demand better form our government, this is our government. They rule on our trust. Malawians lets wake up and demand better from our government,” Kasakura said.
Malawi government spokesman Nicholous Dausi said discussions on ‘Hot Current’ Times TV program are “unnecessary irritation”.
“I choose to ignore listening to their gurgling,” said Dausi who was scheduled to be on Times TV Exclusive interview on Saturday.
He said Kasakura seemed almost emotional in his contributions.
But Times are proving that they aren’t the kind of journalists that go around repeating what the government , they are demonstrating the kind of journalists that believe the way you hold power accountable is by reporting what the truth actually is.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :