The number of bags of duty-free cement purportedly imported by former president Peter Mutharika has jumped from the initially reported 400,000 to 1.2 million, bringing the total cost of three consignments to about K5 billion, fresh evidence shows.
The batch is an equivalent of 2,000 thirty-tonner articulated trucks carrying a maximum of 600 cement bags each.
Documents that The Daily Times has seen show that the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) gave Mutharika the clearance to make the duty-free cement importations in three tranches, each of the consignment valued at $2.240 million bringing the total cost of the three consignments to $6.720 million (about K5.040 billion).
The first clearance was made on November 28 2018 while the second clearance was given on July 1 2019. The third clearance was issued on December 16 2019 and was all signed by MRA Deputy Commissioner, Technical – Customs and Excise, Abigail Kawamba.
In a letter dated November 28 2018, Kawamba wrote former Director General of State Residences, Peter Mukhito informing him of MRA Commissioner General’s approval to clear the first consignment.
“We acknowledge receipt of the letter dated 21 November, 2018 requesting Commissioner General’s approvals to clear 20,000 metric tonnes of cement from PTC Zimbabwe Limited duty free in terms of the Customs Procedures Code 418 of the Customs and Excise (Tariffs) Order,” reads the letter from Kawamba.
In another letter to Mukhito dated July 1 2019 and titled Duty Free Clearing of 400,000 bags of Cement for His Excellency the State President Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, Kawamba gave another go ahead to State House to import more cement.
“We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 28th June 2019 requesting duty free clearance of the above mentioned goods.
“We write to convey the Commissioner Gener a l ’s approval to clear 400,000 bags of cement as per invoice numbers 884 of 20/06/2019 and 785 of 20/06/2019 duty free in terms of the Customs Procedures Code 418 of the Customs and Excise (Tariffs) Order,” Kawamba said.
On December 16 2019, Kawamba wrote Mukhito again acknowledging receipt of a letter dated the same day for duty free clearance of another 20,000 tonnes of cement.
“We write to convey the Commissioner General’s approval to clear 20,000 tonnes of cement as per invoice number 3633 of 02/12/2019 duty free in terms of Customs Procedure Code 418 of the Customs and Excise (Tariff) Order,” Kawamba said.
According to MRA declaration form number 12 dated August 22 2019, the consignment was cleared using declaration number C4071 at Mchinji Border Past and was imported by Mahmed Shafee Ahmed Chunara of P.O. Box 1528, Lilongwe.
The declaration form shows that Chunara’s Taxpayer ’s Identification Number is 31060073.
When contacted yesterday, MRA Head of Corporate Affairs, Steven Kapoloma, asked for more time before he could comment on the matter.
On his part Chunara asked for an emailed questionnaire which he had not responded to by the time we went to press yesterday. Efforts to talk to Mukhito proved futile yesterday.
Chunara operates Melton Hardware and also trades under Prestige Import and Exports.
Former Presidential Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, last month defended Mutharika, saying the cement importations were within the law and described the cement as for personal use.
“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,” Kalilani said.