THERE is no evidence to suggest that the Government wants to shut down the Post because it supports opposition parties as claimed by Hakainde Hichilema.
The issue is quite clear: The Post owes the Government K53.8 million which it has tried to avoid paying for the last one year. At last the Supreme Court ruled this week that it must pay.
This is a case in which The Post newspapers and its proprietor Fred M’membe have used every trick in the legal jargon to keep the Zambia Revenue Authority at bay by delaying to pay the taxes due.
This is one of the most bizarre cases of impunity where a company refuses to pay tax even after being levied by ZRA and is given all the evidence that it owes tax.
The saga gathered steam last year when The Post commenced judicial review proceedings challenging the decision of the ZRA Commissioner General to reject the newspaper’s proposal to pay its tax liabilities in instalments.
In October 2015, the Lusaka High Court dismissed the company’s motion for judicial review for want of merit. The Post then applied for a stay of the judgment pending appeal. The following month the High Court granted the stay which halted the ZRA from grabbing its assets.
Following this High Court ruling to bar the organisation from executing its mandate, ZRA appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision of Judge J.M. Siavwapa .
The Supreme Court ruled on 13th June, 2016 that the High Court:
Erred in both law and fact when it confirmed the stay of execution and ordered The Post to make itself current with its tax obligations within 90 days of disposal of the appeal by the Supreme Court, thereby exceeding its jurisdiction.
Erred in both law and fact when it disregarded the statutory timeframe within which the respondent (The Post) as a taxpayer is supposed to pay its taxes.
Erred in law and fact when it disregarded the principle that taxes are due and payable immediately notwithstanding an appeal by the taxpayer.
Erred in law and fact in proceeding to grant a stay of execution even after establishing that the respondent’s intended appeal to the Supreme Court had no merit.
Perhaps the most important observation the Supreme Court made in this landmark judgment was to caution that ‘‘courts should not be swayed by sympathy into making moral judgments’’. In other words courts, as dispensers of justice, should not bend the law to favour anyone regardless of their circumstances.
The Post has for several years been engaged in legal skirmishes with ZRA over its taxes despite public outcry that the newspaper must not be treated like a sacred cow when others in its shoes have been too willing to pay and forget.
The Post and Mr Hichilema must stop politicising the ZRA issue. No one in Government wants to shut down The Post. It is The Post which wants to dodge paying what is due to the taxman by using politics to cover its tracks.
Mr Hichilema must not entangle himself in The Post-ZRA affair when he has a sword of his own hanging over his head. Let him tell the Zambian people what he knows about the former BP and Anglo American Corporation retirees whom he allegedly owes almost K28 million and is refusing to pay.
They say birds of a feather fly together.