Is Zambia ripe for a democratic tax rebellion?
Rebellion is a constitutional right when any government violates the constitutionally entrenched tenets of good governance, constitutionalism and the rule of law. There are many instances in the life of a nation when an otherwise legitimate government becomes illegitimate when it violates the very constitution that it was sworn to uphold, when the state and government violate the laws of the country with impunity and builds a foundation for its own democratic overthrow. Citizens are not obliged to wait until another election while the government and state eviscerate the constitution and the foundations of constitutional good governance.
Impeachment, recall, vote of no confidence and other mechanisms were created precisely for such occasions. If a government destroys these valves through which change can occur, rebellion becomes democratic and legal. Rebellion is a continuation of other democratic avenues for change.
Is Zambia ripe for a democratic tax rebellion? This is an urgent question Zambians must ask themselves. The constitution has entrenched tenets of good governance and accountability. One of the constitutional offices that is embedded in the constitution to provide a check on good governance and accountability is not filled, thus demonstrating that this government and state has violated a key component of constitutional good governance. The absence of that key constitutional office holder has entailed the mushrooming of endemic bad governance, impunity, lack of accountability, indolence, corruption, wastefulness, economic crimes, lack of trust and so on involving the government and state of the day. This is a violation of the Constitution of Zambia.
The constitutional office that superintendents and checks over good governance and accountability in the utilization of taxpayers’ resources is the Auditor General’s office. There will be no 2018 Auditor General’s report because there is no Auditor General. Over the years, Zambians have relied on the Auditor General’s report to gauge how the Zambian government has utilised the tax payers’ money, how wasteful it has spent this money and which key departments have been responsible for misappropriation, mismanagement, corruption, unaccountability or misappropriation of our resources.
The Auditor General has reported on departments that have failed to remit PAYE back to Government, ministries and departments that have been impotent and corrupt, departments that have failed to collect due taxes owed to us taxpayers while new taxes are imposed on already overburdened citizens. We have read reports that state that companies and individuals were refunded taxes when these companies and individuals owed Zambians taxes in return. This is utter incompetence justifying a tax rebellion. How could citizens be made to further tighten their belts while millions of previously collected taxes are paid back to entities that actually currently owe taxpayer monies? Could this be the most incompetent and corrupt regime in Zambian history? Sift through the evidence yourself. Don’t let anyone judge for you. Remove the scales from your eyes. Momentarily remove your political blinkers. Be fair and just in your judgment.
If already owed taxes or already collected taxes like PAYE were collected by the relevant bodies, Zambians would not need to be further strangled and robbed for and of their hard earned money, if any. Tax rebellion is the only democratic alternative.
There is money sitting that the Ministers haven’t paid back, yet the government has implemented measures to collect non existent small change from students who were given loans. Bigger money is sitting in sight. The government is installing road cameras to capture a mere K300 from each person for speeding, when millions of kwacha already earned sit in mining houses or Times of Zambia, Zamtel, Councils, ministries and other entities. The government has failed to collect millions of kwacha from the informal sector and now wants some hired companies to collect this money for them, displaying the incompetency of tax and government authorities to collect this money. Once this money is collected by these agents, how assured are we that the money will be deposited in government coffers when there is no Auditor General to report on this? Do we know how our tourist levies are collected and managed? Do we know what happened to the money deposited through the e-Voucher system in the field of agriculture when peasants didn’t get the inputs in 2016-2018? Etcetera.
What good governance is there when this government and state can kill a good tax-paying and Zambian-employing corporate citizen like The Post while preserving entities that suck away already earned PAYE or non-tax paying entities or incompetent tax collecting institutions? The President has repeatedly asked for evidence of corruption but refuses to accept the evidence repeatedly supplied by the Auditor General, Financial Intelligence Centre, Hon. Chishimba Kambwili, Honourable Harry Kalaba, foreign missions, reports of the Financial Intelligence Centre, independent newspapers and so on. When evidence surfaces which is irresistible, those allegedly responsible are suspended and not prosecuted so that the bigger picture of massive corruption and wastage of taxpayers’ money remains hidden! Can you imagine the enormity of corruption Kambwili and Kalaba would expose if they were charged for defaming the President for calling him and his government as running a kleptocracy or words to that effect? Kalaba has said that nobody should mess up with him because he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. He knows a lot. Kambwili has called our President a thief. Both are walking the streets free men. Honourable Mike Mulongoti walks while Fresher Siwale is limping with chains around him being prosecuted for saying exactly what Mulongoti said. Can you imagine the Corruption UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema would expose if he was charged with contempt of court? The Presidential election petition would be litigated fresh and vigorous if he was charged with contempt of court like Chifire was charged for saying more or less the same things, albeit in different contexts. The evidence of corruption Hichilema was talking about is implicated in the Presidential election petition. No one wants to open that Pandora’s box.
But the absence of the Auditor General is worrying. The excuses and attempts at explaining the absence of this constitutionally-provided for office are lame and not convincing. The absence means the taxpayers are left vulnerable because the wastage of taxpayers resources at the hands of this government will not be exposed and no one will be held accountable by design. The answer therefore is democratic tax rebellion to enforce the imperatives of good governance that our constitution, enacted by our sitting government, mandates and embeds. No independent and autonomous judiciary composed of judges that have faithfully read the constitution can fail to come to the same conclusion. Zambia is still a democracy.
Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches Law of Evidence and Criminal Law and is Acting Dean at Zambian Open University.