By James M. Kalaluka- Pretoria South Africa
I am an investigative journalist based here in Pretoria in the Republic of South Africa.
From the onset let me indicate that the rate at which socio media in Zambia is being used to assassinate the character of its people is alarming. If not handled properly by Zambian leaders, the first civil strife in Zambia will be ignited by a careless socio media post. This has happened in other countries and Zambia is not different.
It is easy to laugh and ridicule those who are viciously attacked on socio media until it is you in the frying pan.
Unfortunately even leaders and intellectuals in Zambia tend to believe socio media and they form firm opinion and take actions based on socio media.
I have thoroughly investigated the Donavan/ ZRA saga and I have established that what is on socio media alleging a fraudulent payment of USD16m to Donavan from ZRA is not true. Please be patient and read so that you know the absolute truth.
Donavan obtained a ZDA Investment license to start Manufacturing vehicles in Zambia as Prestige Motors. Under this licence, all inputs were to be imported tax free.
He started importing in 2014. ZRA allowed some importations tax free under this licence until the project was red-flagged by the customs risk department. So the subsequent imports were intercepted by customs for inspection. It was discovered that Donavan was importing complete vehicles in knock-down form and just assembling them.
Within ZRA the argument was whether assembling a vehicle befitted the definition of Manufacturing or not. Customs concluded that assembling was not Manufacturing so they detained the trucks.
Donavan rushed to court and secured a court order for ZRA to release the trucks but ZRA ignored the court order until the court threatened to sight ZRA for contempt. The trucks were finally released after almost three weeks of detention.
In 2015 when Donavan realised that his vehicle assembly plant business was not viable in Zambia, he sued ZRA for loss of business and claimed damages of USD64 million. The ZRA opposed the suit arguing that there was no way Donavan lost USD64 million in 3 weeks but he won the case in the High Court anyway and he was granted damages of USD64million by the High Court against ZRA.
Please note that when all this drama was happening Kingsley Chanda was not Commissioner General. He joined ZRA end of September 2016. Berlin Msiska was Commissioner General at the time.
ZRA refused to pay the damages and decided to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Please note that it is a mandatory requirement that all such cases are reported quarterly to the board. At one Board meeting in 2017 the board requested for a detailed analysis of all court cases indicating the chances of winning each case.
On Presitige, legal experts advised that the chances of winning were almost zero especially that ZRA defied the initial court order and further there was a risk that the damages may increase beyond USD64m. The Board directed management to settle the case outside court. Management through the legal department negotiated a final settlement of USD16m. The Board approved the settlement amount and instructed management to sign a consent judgment.
Due to cash flow challenges ZRA paid the initial installment of USD8m to Donavan through his lawyers.
My investigation has proved that the companies (suppliers) whose invoices Donavan used to claim USD64m in the High Court were not paid. Instead he used part of the money to fund PF campaigns, pay his legal fees and the rest he externalised to other countries.
So the owners of the invoices sued him claiming the money. The High Court issued a garnishee order to ZRA to pay Presitege Motors balance of USD8m to his creditors. ZRA was not party to this decision and proceedings. Not even CG as an individual. The garnishee order was immediate and ZRA complied given that approval was already given by the Board.
As this was happening two of the companies whose invoices were used to claim money from ZRA reported to the police that their invoices were forged and that they did not supply anything to Donavan.
Police recorded statements from ZRA and obtained necessary documents.
At that point ZRA action was to wait for police investigations to prove that any of the invoices used was forged. If that happened, ZRA was to call back to court with that evidence and set aside the consent judgment and claim back the entire USD16M as the entire amount was legally paid to Prestige given that it was paid to their creditors.
Remember this was a USD64m claim so Donavan used invoices of several companies to build his case who he refused to pay when he was paid.
From the foregoing it is evident that the ZRA Board acted in good faith to authorise the payment and management headed by the Commissioner General acted correctly in complying with court orders. If indeed any of the invoices is proved to be fraudulent ZRA must recover the entire amount from Donavan. Both Donavan and whoever gave him the fake invoices must account for their actions in the court of Law.
The continuous attacks on the former CG by Donavan is not only unfair but very malicious. He clearly does not understand how ZRA operates. He thinks this a decision that one person can make.
No single person in ZRA can direct such a payment without Board approval.
I bothered to ask various people at the High Court and in ZRA to establish the truth and that is the truth.
Since this issue is with the police and there is a court process, its only fair that no one jumps to conclusion.
I also urge FIC to check whether Donavan paid the people he claimed he owed money and who in PF he was financing.
Be fair be factual otherwise you will burn our country