A DOCUMENT purported to have been a stay of execution against the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) is apparently unenforceable and now the Zambia Police has charged Post Newspapers proprietor Fred M’membe with uttering a false document.
The document purports to originate from the Tax Appeals Tribunal which has not yet been formerly established and operationalised.
Mr M’membe, along with his wife Mutinta Mazoka and deputy managing editor Joseph Mwenda, apparently uttered the Tax Appeals Tribunal document to the police guarding the Post Newspaper premises along Bwinjimfumu Road in Rhodes Park to protect The Post assets seized by the ZRA from being tampered with.
Police have since charged the trio with uttering a false document contrary to Section 352 of the Penal Code and are now facing a seven years imprisonment if convicted.
The wording of the document has also raised eyebrows among security officers as it gives leeway to the Post Newspaper to gain control of properties and moveable assets including trucks which can easily be moved out of jurisdiction.
According to police sources, the document prepared by Nchito and Nchito law firm had no legal effect as the Tax Appeals Tribunal had not yet formerly been established.
According to CAP 87, Section 349 of the Penal Code, any person who forges any judicial or official document is liable to imprisonment for seven years. The trio were later released on police bond and will appear in court next week.
Another puzzle is that the wording of the ex-parte order suggested that the Post newspaper should pay what it deemed fit rather than the assessment by ZRA.
It is alleged that Mr M’membe, his wife Mutinta and Mr Mwenda went to the Post Newspaper offices along Bwinjimfumu Road at 02.00 hours where they were denied entry by the police but the trio attempted to force their way into the premises and were immediately arrested.
The document ordered a stay of the warrant of distress issued by the Supreme Court of Zambia against The Post Newspapers over the K53 million owed in unpaid taxes to ZRA.
According to the order issued on Monday June 27, 2016, by the Revenue Appeals Tribunal and signed by the deputy registrar, ZRA must step aside and allow Post Newspapers to operate pending the determination of the matter subject to some conditions prescribed for the newspaper company.
Among the conditions included The Post handing over into ZRA possession trucks, trailers and other property to the tune of K53,878,401.83 – the amount being demanded and payment of what was owed, before the return date of the order.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is ordered that the respondent (ZRA) forthwith hand over the appellant’s premises and allow the appellant to continue conducting business pending determination of this matter subject to the following conditions:
1) That the appellant hand over possession of the trucks, trailers and other property to the tune of K53, 878, 401.83, the amount being demanded by the respondent before the return date of this order.
2) That the appellant pay to the respondent what it deems it owes to the respondent on or before 11th July, 2015 (sic).
3) That the respondent forthwith hands over control of the appellant’s Bwinjimfumu property, industrial area plant and the instruments necessary to the running of the appellant’s business,” the order reads.
And Mr M’membe has launched a scathing attack against the Patriotic Front (PF) government, branding President Edgar Lungu’s administration a troubled regime that had resorted to tyranny as its governing style.
An angry Mr M’membe yesterday said ZRA had ignored what he called a court order to have the Post Newspaper gain access to its premises and claimed it was a lie that the court document was uttered.
He instead branded President Lungu’s administration tyrannical and vowed that he was not going to be silenced and would continue doing what he knew best, which was writing.
Addressing a combined group of UPND and Rainbow Party cadres, Mr M’membe declared that there were other people who could easily succumb to tyranny but that the Post Newspaper was not going to accept to be silenced.
“You know what happens when regimes are troubled, they resort to tyranny. But tyranny cannot be the way of governing and wherever it has been tried, it has failed. It will not succeed in Zambia. Not everyone can be silenced but there are those who accept to be silenced but not us (Post Newspaper),” Mr M’membe said
“We had a court order authorising the opening of our offices yesterday but they ignored it. Even today, they have ignored it. It is only them who should get favourable decisions from our adjudicatory system and not anybody else. If you cannot obey the orders from institutions you have created, what remains in a country is dictatorship,” Mr M’membe said.