The government, through the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), has seized Times Group property and closed Times Group offices at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre.
But Times Group Editor-in-Chief George Kasakula has described MRA’s decision as politically-motivated and an “act of impunity” on the part of the government.
Officials from MRA Friday morning descended on Times Group offices at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre and they were accompanied by heavily-armed police officers who stood guard at all entry and exit points, while others escorted tax collectors as they took records and seized vehicles.
“MRA has seized our offices over taxes and yet we have been paying taxes every month. It is impunity and lawlessness on the part of the government. Just imagine, they came with a notice yesterday and, instead of offering us a chance for negotiations as they do in such cases — as you know that sometimes their figures can be wrong and you negotiate — they came 12 hours later to seize our property,” Kasakula said.
He said this means The Times Group has stopped all operations, including broadcasting on live broadcasts on Times Radio and Times Television, and production work on Malawi News, which comes out on Saturday. Recorded programmes were being beamed on Times Television while music is just playing on Times Radio.
Journalists working on Malawi News stories can also not work from the newsroom because it has been seized and closed.
Kasakula said he suspected that the issue is linked to the maize scandal.
It involves a decision by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to buy maize at an exorbitant price in Zambia.
But Kasakula has vowed that The Times Group will not relent in pursuing the maize scandal, dubbed Maizegate, until its logical conclusion.
“We are being punished for publishing the truth about the maize scam, but we will continue publishing and broadcasting the truth,” Kasakula said.
Meanwhile, Times Group is doing everything to get back to work, according to Kasakula.
“Our lawyers are working on this and we pray that we should be back to work. Rest assured that Malawi News will come out tomorrow,” Kasakula said.