With barely months to its general elections, the Zambian government has ordered the closure of a printing plant belonging to ‘The Post’ newspaper citing lack of payment of their taxes.
Officials of the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), according to the Post, under instructions from State House and accompanied by security officers went to the offices of the newspaper demanding disputed tax arrears of about Sh 68 million ($6.1 million)
Local media reports that despite explanations by the paper’s head of finance that the said amounts had been settled, a ZRA officer responded that they had not received it hence the need to enforce the distress warrant.
The political fight which is there now is do or die, so it is either you survive or the one who makes you fail to survive must be dead and that is the fight which is there between government and The Post.
Govt of Zambia y'day shut down printing plant of the country's independent newspaper the post.— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) June 22, 2016
Newspaper statement: pic.twitter.com/lY8NYSYxyb
Lawyers for the paper produced a court order restraining them from the closure but they reportedly refused, driving employees out and locking up the premises, leaving behind armed police.
‘The Post’ is here to stay – Owner
Earlier on Tuesday, owner of the newspaper, Chief Mukuni had hinted that ZRA were nosing around his companies in the wake of his public disapproval of the government’s decision to increase subsidies of chiefs with barely months to the elections.
According to him, the Post was not going anywhere because it enjoyed the protection of the Zambian populace and was their voice.
“The Post is there to stay for many years to come; it is the voice of the people and it will continue to be there, no one will close it. Despite what is currently happening, The Post shouldn’t worry so much because currently, it is the voice of the people and the voice of the people cannot be suppressed; this is just a passing phase and very soon it will be an issue of the past,” chief Mukuni said.
“The political fight which is there now is do or die, so it is either you survive or the one who makes you fail to survive must be dead and that is the fight which is there between government and The Post. But government should accommodate people and organisations which hold divergent views, especially the media,” he added.
The August 2016 elections
President Edgar Lungu heads into the August polls with nine other contenders, even though the race is seen to be fought between the incumbent and the main opposition’s Hakainde Hichilema who came in second in the last elections.
Lungu who has been in power for a year is seeking to rule the Southern African country for the next five years. The 59-year-old leader came into power after winning a ballot triggered by the death of his predecessor, Michael Sata, in October 2014.
Reports indicate that Lungu is basing on his re-election strategy on his achievements during his tenure. Meanwhile, the country’s electoral commission has threatened to bar campaigning ahead of the elections due to growing cases of violence between supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front and the main opposition United Party for National Development.