By Duncan Mlanjira
Chitipa residents stormed Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) offices to present a petition asking the government tax collecting body to remove officers at Mbilima Border Post whom they had earlier asked to be withdrawn.
The residents are using MRA to force the government to upgrade the 35km stretch of the road that connects Chitipa Boma, the border post and Tanzania.
Last week, the concerned citizens issued a 7-day ultimatum (from January 2) that MRA should favourably respond to their concerns for better social amenities including the upgrade of the access road to border post, which is in bad shape.
The ultimatum had said if MRA would not respond favourably it should stop collecting tax at the post by removing its officers or expect unpleasant unspecified action.
The chaos started when leaders of the concerned citizens were discussing with MRA officers and reports say as one of the leaders was about to read a fresh petition, the crowd got incensed with journalist for Tumtufye Radio, who was taking pictures — suspecting her to be a police officer in civilian.
As the crowd became agitated, the police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse them, leading to the chaos in the streets.
Other ill intentioned citizens took advantage of the situation to cause more mayhem and looting around the Boma.
Gerald Kampanikiza posted a picture of people looting at Chipiku Chitipa branch and raised the question: “What has this got to do with Chipiku?”
To which Daniel Mkandawire responded: “We are nothing but simply thieves. This is very wrong and needs to be addressed immediately and collectively.
Robert Masakatira said: “Whatever justification we may have, this is wrong — whatever theory we may apply, this is not right. We are a sorry state.
When the ultimatum was issued, MRA had maintained that the border post will remain intact and revenue will continue to be collected.
The petition to Chitipa MRA officer in charge was signed by nine concerned citizens and copied to the District Commissioner.
It said: “We feel it is hypocrisy of highest order and daylight robbery that you collect revenue from us at the said border post and yet the road network connecting is in bad shape.
“You, therefore, have no basis whatsoever for benefiting from us when your (government) service on the road leaves a lot to be desired.
“Do not civic educate us that road construction or upgrading is not your responsibility. The Malawi Government is one and all the services by governmental agencies and up in the OPC. Simple and straight forward.
“We, therefore give you 7 days to get rid of your officers from Mbilima Border Post or we will react in a manner you will not like.”
The concerned citizens also requests MRA to construct offices at the border post and not tents where the officers are currently operating from.
“What do you do with all the revenue that you are failing even to build your offices?” questions the petitioners, who all appended their signatures as well as provided phone contacts.
The petitioners acting on behalf of fellow citizens are Dave Msongole, Mernard Mwaungulu, Fred Mwanginde, Moir Simengwa, Alick Kalagho, George Nyondo, Raphael Kalinga, Nichoras Sinyangwe and Daniby Mubisa.