Not many months ago, the Zambia Revenue Authority came up with all sorts of tax demands against The Post in a clear attempt to close the newspaper.
When this legally, factually and otherwise failed, the Zambia Revenue Authority went to the magistrates’ court and obtained a search warrant on claims that there was suspected tax evasion at The Post.
Armed with this warrant, the Zambia Revenue Authority tried to seize all the key operating assets – servers, computers, and delivery motor vehicles – of the newspaper. The aim was not tax collection but to stop the operations of the newspaper. It took a High Court order to stop them from taking such measures that amounted to closing the newspaper.
For months, Zambia Revenue Authority officers camped at The Post offices searching for evidence of tax evasion but failed to find any. At the end of that investigation, they issued a demand of K101 million, half that being penalties for wilful omission of income that was supposed to be subjected to tax. The Post disagreed with their findings and asked for reconciliations.
After we raised queries, their demand quickly dropped to K53 million. Before the reconciliations are concluded, on Wednesday, the Zambian Revenue Authority came to demand the immediate payment of the K53 million.
Why? What has happened to the reconciliations process? Why are they in a rush?
If their initial assessment was off the mark by over 48 million kwacha, why are they making a final demand before the reconciliation process is finalised?
The matter that is in the Courts of Law also raises very interesting questions. We know that our courts do not like being criticised. But there is no institution or authority created to serve our people that should be beyond accountability. Is it coincidence that in defiance of logic and what should be a normal reconciliation process the ZRA turned up with 53 million kwacha on Wednesday and the very next day, we have a judgment in favour of the ZRA against The Post? Yes, this judgment was expected but that is not the point.
When The ZRA tried to close us before, we went before Justice Siavwapa and obtained an order of stay whilst we waited for the Supreme Court to hear our appeal. The ZRA for its part appealed against the order granting stay. What is interesting is that although our appeal to the Supreme Court went in first, the Supreme Court decided to hear the ZRA’s appeal first. These were appeals from decisions of the same court. What procedure was used in cause listing the ZRA appeal before ours? Why was the ZRA appeal rushed before our appeal? These are questions that The Post today is asking? Are we being treated fairly?
We are also left wondering why the Supreme Court decided to make extensive comments on our appeal which they have not yet heard. Do we not deserve a right to be heard before they can comment? We have never refused to pay taxes. We have even been paying money in court and to the ZRA directly which demonstrates that we will do our best to meet our obligations. All we ask is that we should be treated fairly and in accordance with the law.
We are not the only media institution that owes ZRA. We know that government-funded media which should have no problem with money because their operations are underwritten by taxpayers, owe the ZRA huge amounts of money. We also know that other private media houses owe the ZRA money but no one is treated the way we are treated.
Our tax affairs are matters for political target!
They have to get us at any cost. We wish them good luck but we will never give in to blackmail, however well-orchestrated.
Their own political masters are going round boasting that this time The Post won’t survive beyond the end of next week; everything has been put in place to end the newspaper, ‘just watch what will happen!’
But The Post has never refused to pay taxes. It is even paying in court amounts it is disputing. So, what is the problem? The problem is the newspaper’s independent editorial line; its refusal to surrender to the corrupt and its continued exposure of their attempts to manipulate everything in the country, including the electoral process. This is our simple and only explanation of their desperate actions against the newspaper using the Zambian Revenue Authority.
But will they succeed? We are convinced the work of The Post will endure. These are unusual, very difficult economic times. The strength of The Post is moral, not money. If the strength of The Post was money, they would have succeeded to close down this newspaper a long time ago.
In a country with very high levels of corruption and intolerance in all the key institutions of the state, the existence of The Post and its independent editorial line could never be easy. It had to contend with the hatred of all corrupt and intolerant elements in control of the state apparatus and even private institutions that are parasitic on the state. To survive and advance to this day, The Post had to defy attacks of all sorts and even run the risk of being annihilated.
Despite all these difficulties and challenges, The Post has not retreated or made any concession to the corrupt and intolerant who always boast about the state power they possess and the money they have. The Post has not renounced a single one of it’s ideas or principles.
But this desperation from the state at this political hour raises new questions. It is very clear that they want The Post out of their way, the question is: what do they want to do in this country that they haven’t done already with the existence of The Post?
This newspaper has extended its platform for campaign even to those in government who want to close it down, but they are not interested in that platform. They are instead eager to close down the newspaper at all costs.
This country is going to elections in just 55 days, why are they preoccupied with shutting down the newspaper instead of explaining to the voters why they should be re-elected?
What kind of campaign do they plan to engage in that doesn’t need The Post to be around?
What kind of elections do they plan to take part in which does not need The Post?
What kind of election outcome do they anticipate which they do not want The Post to report?
Why does The Post seem to be an impediment to their political schemes?
We have always said that there is a limit to what power can achieve. They might want to destroy us but they will never silence us. The ideals that we have stood for are self-propelling and as long as we have breathe in our lungs, we shall continue to say what we have always said; we will denounce corruption and the corrupt; we will expose those who do wrong. We fear nothing. Even if we have to write the newspaper using a ballpoint pen, we will do it.
The Post is here to stay and what it stands for will be around long after we are gone.