By Tiyese Monjeza:
Leaders of the faith community in the country have hailed government for the proposed new tax measures, some of which include duty free importation of building materials for churches and mosques.
On May 28, Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu presented the 2021/22 national budget statement pegged at K1.9 trillion to parliament, in which he some proposed tax measures, that if approved will exempt churches and mosques from paying tax when on construction projects.
According to Mlusu, government will amend the Customs Procedures Code (CPC).
Muslim Association of Malawi (Mam) spokesperson, Sheikh Dinala Chabulika welcomed the consideration, saying that the religious institutions are government partners as they nurture good citizens of the country. As such it is in order to exempt them of some unreasonable taxes.
Chabulika said, the religious sector has in the past, proposed the removal of tax when importing building materials such as iron sheets, considering that most faithfuls were struggling to build standard churches and mosques due to exorbitant prices of building materials.
‘This is a big relief to the religious community. The country is sailing through economic challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the religion sector has not been spared. Apart from the pandemic, the country is already facing so many challenges and government should promote the spirit of worship amongst citizenry, which has been showcased through this consideration,” Chabulika said.
He appealed to government to extend the tax exemption on some religious donations like mats which the Muslims use during prayers.
‘There was an agreement that we will not be taxed when importing mats which we sit on when conducting our prayers in mosques. However, when we receive a consignment of such mats and some food (known as dates) during the time of Ramadan which we use to break the fasting, we have problems to clear such items as Malawi Revenue Authority’s (MRA) officials are always on our neck,’ Chabulika said.
On his part, Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) Chairperson, Bishop Mark Kambalazaza also commended the government for the development. He described it as part of promoting the freedom of worship and express hope that more standard church buildings will be constructed.
He further cautioned religious leaders not to abuse the initiative by ensuring the imported products are strictly meant for construction of mosques and church buildings, and not for personal projects.
“EAM is still discussing and we will soon come up with recommendations to the government on areas which the religious community would like to be improved,” Kambalazaza said.
Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire Bishop, Brighton Malasa said government decision was impressive, but urged government to consider cutting taxes on importation of teaching and learning materials, medical supplies and other equipment for faith based institutions that run health and education institutions.
“Different churches and Muslim institutions are running very important institutions which complement government’s mandate to provide basic social services. These institutions should be considered for special waivers on some exorbitant taxes that impinge on their operations. For example, government can extend the gesture to remove tax on importation of ambulances, medical equipment for Christian Health Association in Malawi facilities,” Malasa added.