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HRDC calls for action on Peter Mutharika

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SIGNED THE STATEMENT—Tembo

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has called on former president Peter Mutharika to own up and take responsibility of the matter in which K5 billion worth of cement was imported using Mutharika’s Taxpayer Identification Number (Tpin) duty free.

HRDC says Mutharika and the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) had justified the transaction as within the law when he (Mutharika) was in office.

Following the arrest this month of his top personal security aide Norman Chisale and businessman Ahmed Shafee Chunara in connection with the cement import matter, Mutharika through his personal secretary Linda Salanjira released a statement expressing ignorance on the matter.

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“The former president neither bought nor instructed anyone to buy or import the cement in question. Accordingly, the former president did not, as he could not, request the Malawi Revenue Authority to invoke any of his privileges to clear the alleged consignment of cement duty-free,” reads the statement Salanjira issued last Friday.

But in a statement released Monday, HRDC leaders have expressed “shock and surprise” with Mutharika’s decision to distance himself from “an apparent case of abuse of his own privileges”.

In the statement, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence and National Coordinator Luke Tembo together with the organisation’s regional leaders say as far as they are concerned, Mutharika imported bags of cement worth K5 billion duty-free from Zambia and Zimbabwe between 2018 and 2019.

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“We quote former President Mutharika speaking through his spokesperson, Mgeme Kalilani, to the effect that the goods were imported under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act chapter 2, subsection 2, part 7 of the schedule,” reads part of the statement made available to us.

The statement further says to HRDC, Mutharika’s response, through Kalilani, meant official acceptance that he understands and acknowledges the transaction and acceptance that the transactions were within the law.

“We reject Mutharika’s statement because we find it as a futile attempt to divert the public from matters he was in control of,” HRDC says.

The rights body has since called on relevant state agencies to act decisively to ensure that Mutharika is held to account on the cement saga.

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