With pressure from donors to reopen the independent Post Newspaper, Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Monday lashed out at diplomats calling for the reopening of the Post newspaper, saying those who feel it is being victimized, should raise money to pay the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and the matter will be cleared overnight.
President Lungu who called ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to Zambia for a meeting at State House on Monday, defended the decision taken by ZRA to close the newspaper.
ZRA last Tuesday (June 21) closed the Post newspaper, demanding over K53 million tax in arrears. (US$=K10)
The US government and the EU are among cooperating partners that have urged the Zambian government to reopen the Post, Zambia’s leading independent newspaper.
The delegation of the European Union (EU) last week said the closure of the Post newspaper by ZRA over an outstanding tax dispute was of the utmost concern, in particular as it occurred during the campaign period leading to the general elections on 11 August.
Also reacting to the closure, the US government said the timing of the closure, only weeks before important elections in Zambia, was of deep concern.
The US government urged the Government of Zambia to work with the Zambian Revenue Authority and The Post to find a way forward that allowed it to reopen immediately.
But President Lungu on Monday said: “I don’t know where this happens. My own diplomats who are accredited in other countries cannot comment on such matters, if it were in your countries. This is the decision of the Supreme Court and it has nothing to do with me.
“Those who feel the Post Newspaper is being victimized, let them raise money to pay ZRA and the matter will be cleared overnight. ZRA will close this matter overnight.”
President Lungu said Zambia valued the principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government, and was guided by this principle in its interactions and as such, the decision by the ZRA to take over assets of the Post Newspaper was an independent action to recover tax debt as per its mandate.
The head of state explained that the judicial proceedings concerning ZRA and the post newspaper were not new.
“When is it the right time for courts to act independently?” Lungu asked, telling the donors that “you are the same people, saying the tax system in Zambia is not efficient, that we are not collecting tax for development projects.”