President Edgar Lungu has told the diplomats that those who feel that the POST Newspaper is being victimised should raise money to pay ZRA and the matter will be cleared overnight.
This is according to the speech released to the media by his Special Assistant for Press Mr Amos Chanda.
Speaking to Diplomatic Corps on the upcoming general elections set for 11th August, 2016 this morning, the president said that the judicial proceedings concerning ZRA and the POST Newspaper are not new and that the matter cannot be stayed because of elections and wondered when will be the the right time for courts to act independently.
Below is the President’s Address:
YOUR EXCELLENCIES, AMBASSADORS, AND HIGH COMMISSIONERS ACCREDITED TO ZAMBIA;
YOUR EXCELLENCIES, HEADS OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS;
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
It is an honour and privilege to welcome you all to this meeting whose purpose is to provide an update on the state of preparedness of the Zambian government for the forthcoming general elections scheduled for 11th august, 2016. It is necessary and important to keep communication open between government and cooperating partners on any issues of mutual concern, and particularly over this important national issue.
Following Government’s invitation to local and international election observer missions to observe the general elections in Zambia, I am pleased to inform you that a number of observer missions have accepted Zambia’s invitation to observe the upcoming elections.
Notable amongst those that have confirmed are the southern African development community observer mission (SEOM), the European union observer mission,and the commonwealth observer mission, as well as some non-governmental organisations, faith based organisations, inter-governmental organisations and individual countries.
It is important to note that government values the presence of election observer missions during national elections because they provide legitimacy to electoral and democratic processes, and thus further leads to the consolidation and enhancement of democracy.
In this regard, I wish to express appreciation to all your countries that will be observing the elections, as well as those already in the country.
You will note that as government, we are making important strides and have tried to create a conducive environment for elections, as you have observed with the fair coverage of election campaigns of the different political parties in the media. As far as we are concerned, an enabling environment has been created and the playing field is level, as can be seen from the campaign material for the different political parties around the country.
Government is cognisant of the various perceptions surrounding the closure of the POST Newspaper, and admittedly perceptions are the order of the day in this field. But when you consider the facts on the ground, they are actually different.
It is, however, important for our cooperating partners and stakeholders to note that Zambia values the principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government, and is guided by this principle in its interactions. As such, the decision by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) to take over assets of the post newspaper was indeed an independent action to recover tax debt as per the mandate of the ZRA.
It is also worth noting that the judicial proceedings concerning ZRA and the POST Newspaper are not new. This matter cannot be stayed because of elections. When is it the right time for courts to act independently?
This issue of the POST Newspaper was there as far back as 2009. When we came into power in 2011, we found it. Some of you are saying that the timing of the court’s decision is awkward. Tell me when is the right time to do this? You are the same people, saying the Tax System in Zambia is not efficient, that we are not collecting tax for development projects.
I don’t know where this happens. My own diplomats who are accredited in other countries can not 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 victimised, let them raise money to pay ZRA and the matter will be cleared overnight. ZRA will close this matter overnight.
In terms of the security situation in the country, government is concerned about the recent incidences of violence between the different political parties in the country, which could potentially harm the country’s reputation as a beacon of peace and stability in the region and the continent as a whole.
In this regard, government has taken measures to ensure that a peaceful environment prevails to ensure that all political parties carry out campaigns without fear or intimidation, which are necessary for the holding of credible elections.
I have personally condemned violence and been calling upon my party members and citizens to desist from violent acts. The Zambia police have been working hard to address the situation. They have been arresting perpetrators of violence regardless of one’s political party. I have had discussions with police to act against anyone perpetrating violence.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to remind your excellencies, that Zambia has a good record in the development of democracy, particularly in popular elections and respecting the will of the people. Zambia stands ready to work with your respective countries to ensure that upcoming elections are free and fair and will continue to dialogue with you on important issues regarding the elections.
I thought I could call this meeting so that we can discuss frankly and those with issues to clarify can do so.
I Thank You.