Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and the family of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika are tussling over K800,000 the Mutharikas are demanding as legal fees for a previous adjournment in their matter.
The tax collecting body sued the Mutharikas, through Tapiwa Mutharika, demanding customs duty on 41 vehicles the late Mutharika bought duty free while he was in power.
But when hearing in the matter failed to take place due to MRA’s unpreparedness on February 12 this year, Judge Joseph Manyungwa ordered the body to meet costs incurred by the Mutharikas seven days from that day.
The two parties, however, failed to agree on the amount until yesterday when the matter was scheduled for hearing again.
Mutharika’s lawyer Chancy Gondwe asked the court to guide the proceedings since MRA had not yet honoured the order.
But in response, MRA lawyer Christopher Likomwa told the court that much as the defendants were willing to pay the costs as ordered, the amount was on the higher side.
When it was clear that the two parties were failing to reach an agreeable amount, Manyungwa said the court could not accept to have its orders defied and proceeded with the hearing.
He, therefore, advised the concerned parties to involve the High Court Registrar to help assess the costs incurred as it was not the job of the judge to do so.
Apart from the unpaid costs, Gondwe also raised a concern that MRA served him with an affidavit in opposition late on Monday and needed time to prepare a response and supplement his initial skeletal arguments. MRA did not oppose the request.
Manyungwa, therefore, adjourned the hearing to next month with the hope that all these matters would be resolved before the next hearing.
During the last hearing, MRA had not yet filed an affidavit in opposition to the application, citing internal matters at the institution.
Manyungwa then rebuked MRA’s conduct in the matter, describing it as a “casual approach” to court proceedings as they were duly served with all the documents filed by the applicants by January 30, this year.
The dispute arose when MRA Commissioner General John Biziwick wrote the late Mutharika’s young brother, politician Peter Mutharika, demanding the said customs duty within 14 days.
But Tapiwa, in response, obtained an injunction restraining MRA from executing its decision, saying they have a constitutional right to property and freedom from arbitrary deprivation of property.