Public tax collector Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) on Friday sealed Times Media Group headquarters at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre over alleged failure by the company to remit taxes.
During the raid, MRA officials accompanied by heavily armed police officers asked all employees to vacate the premises.
But Times Media Group editor-in-chief George Kasakula, while confirming the development in an interview, said he believes the issue is not about taxes. He said MRA has not been treating his company fairly.
He said: “The issue is not about tax because there is a proper way in which tax can be collected. Everybody is treated that way. You negotiate and agree to pay in instalments. But for us, even the negotiation meetings don’t take place as if we are a briefcase company that doesn’t have its own offices. Why not just discuss with us and see how we can pay?”
As we went to press, Times Media Group radio and television stations were both still on air and Kasakula explained that they just slotted in recorded programmes.
He also said the company’s lawyer Innocent Kalua was at the court seeking interim relief to have the premises reopened.
Added Kasakula: “The court has told us that the injunction we obtained after they [MRA] sealed the company in December still stands. The figures are not much, it can be paid if all procedures are followed.”
MRA manager for marketing communications Wilma Chalulu declined to comment on the matter referring the issue to head of corporate affairs Steve Kapoloma whose phone went unanswered after several attempts.
Last year, MRA also shut down the media giant over K675 million in unpaid taxes.
MRA said the bill was for value added tax, corporate tax, fringe benefit tax, withholding tax and pay as you earn for the period between 2011 and 2016.
Times Group owns Times Radio and Times TV. It also publishes Malawi News, The Daily Timesand The Sunday Times.
Reacting to the development, Media Institute of Southern Africa Malawi Chapter chairperson Tereza Ndanga said they were yet to get more details on the issue.
She said: “However, we expect that MRA acts in a fair way and not be used [by the government to silence the media]. It worries us when media houses are denied access to information.”