Mangochi — People who consider themselves as 'untouchables' in Mangochi are frustrating the council's revenue collection, Mangochi District Commissioner (DC), Reverend Moses Chimphepo, disclosed on Saturday.
The DC made the revelation at a full council meeting where committees were presenting reports on how they had performed in the first half of the 2017/18 financial year.
Chairperson for Finance Committee, Councilor Ibrahim Kadewere, indicated that from July 1st to December 31st, 2017, the council had collected MK60.2m out of the projected MK172.3m representing a 35 percent collection.
The council had generally not done well in collecting revenue from commercial undertakings, and fees and service charges where only three percent and 24 percent of the total projected amounts were realized respectively.
This triggered reactions from the house as members of the council wanted to know why the council was failing to meet the set targets in revenue collection.
But DC Chimphempho told the house that there were several factors chief among them being the council's failure to collect huge sums on revenue from some 'untouchables'.
"I'd like to be honest with you members of this house that there are people in Mangochi who own a wide range of investments such as maize mills, lodges and shops but they consider themselves untouchables," said Chimphepo.
"These people, some of whom are honourables, owe the council millions of kwacha and every time our revenue collectors knock on their doors to collect revenue, they are always threaten them with words like 'do you know Mangochi'?"
The DC said another reason the council had underperformed in revenue collection was that revenue collectors in the council's key markets were under collecting.
Chimphepo gave an example of Katuli Market, which he said had the potential of generating MK45,000 per day in revenue but the collector was remitting the same MK45,000 in two weeks.
"Recently, the council took an initiative to collect revenue from key markets with the help of the police and in just seven days MK9.3m was realized," Chimphepo said.
He added: "This indicates that Mangochi district council has the potential of generating the required amounts of revenue from its markets only if committed and honest revenue collectors are fielded."
He said following the development, the council had employed 17 revenue collectors and market masters who have had the required training and they are expected to replace the old revenue collectors and market masters who would be redeployed to other sections.
Reacting to the DC's remarks on 'untouchables', council members said "nobody is above the law" and that all those owing the council millions had to pay whether they were 'touchables' or 'untouchables'.
"It is very unfair to get revenue from people with small businesses when those with huge investments go scot free: we are all equal in the eyes of the law and everyone has to pay what's due to the council," said Councilor for Thundu Ward, Yusuf Kusweje, as the house clapped in agreement.
Member of Parliament for Mangochi North, Benedict Chambo concurred with Kusweje citing an example where the legislator's own shop was closed due to his delays in settling debts in revenue with the council.
"My shop was closed by the council and I did not query it because I knew I owed the council some money in revenue. I paid accordingly and had my shop reopened," said Chambo, adding: "So why should some people consider themselves above the law and untouchable?"
Chairperson for Mangochi District Council, Councilor Omar Jabil Magombo, said the house had resolved to follow up on all those owing the council money and that the law would be enforced on those who would not comply "because there are no untouchables before the law".