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MBABANE – Taxes are meant to finance, among other things, health systems. Such finances become even more vital during times of crisis, including the present COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the whole world, with Eswatini also feeling its impact.

The name of Sihle Dlamini, the Assistant Private Secretary and Director Administration at the King’s Office, features prominently alongside a Chinese supplier and a local clearing agent in tax-related documents that reflect how an original invoice of US$46 856.81 (about E815 727.39) was reduced to US$17 584.57 (E305 572.41).

This then resulted in Dlamini, who is well-known for, among other things, being His Majesty King Mswati III’s interpreter, allegedly paying a lesser amount to the Eswatini Revenue Authority (SRA).
The transaction is in relation to 1 508 items that Dlamini bought in China for his local businesses.

classified investigation

A classified investigation conducted by the Times SUNDAY has found that because of the reduced amount in the invoice, Dlamini ended up paying SRA about E127 401.71 as tax (VAT and custom excise) in respect of four containers that were shipped into the country from the People’s Republic of China. The payment was done in February 2020.

However,  it has transpired that when these containers left China with Dlamini’s goods in November 2019, the Chinese Pacific Property Insurance issued documents reflecting that the containers had goods amounting to US$46 856.81 (about E815 727.39).

An independent tax expert told this publication that the US$46 856.81 is the amount Dlamini would have received as insurance payment for the goods he purchased in China had the consignment got lost or stolen along the way to Eswatini. The containers, according to the documents seen by the Times SUNDAY, were delivered at Matsapha Eswatini Railway (Swazi Rail Terminal) on January 17, 2020 and they had a gross weight of 35 020 kilogrammes.

According to an arrival notice, these containers had items including furniture, tiles, mattress and ceramic fittings.
Dlamini, who also serves as a pastor at the Jesus Calls Worship Centre, is the owner of Open House Boutique Hotel at Trelawney Park in Manzini.

The goods, as reflected in the invoice, were purchased by Dlamini at Xinyang Industrial Company whose address is number 11 first floor block 9, Chaonan KaiXuanhui Beijing at Qingyuan City in Guangdong province in China. The goods were loaded at Nansha China port and transported to Durban, South Africa, before they were delivered in Matsapha through vessel no. MAERSK ENSHI 949N.

While the original invoice and insurance certificate shows a figure of US$46 856.81, the invoice that was eventually submitted to SRA reflects the lesser amount of US$17 584.57. This invoice with a lesser amount does not have any stamp or signature from its original source. It was, however, submitted to SRA, as is, for filing.

authority’s system

Further investigations have found that the receiving officer at SRA also did not take note that the invoice had not been stamped. It is currently in the authority’s system.
The Times SUNDAY has also found that the insurance policy certificate was never attached or submitted to SRA during the payment of taxes for the declared goods.

In fact, from this document, SRA would have managed to spot the anomaly in the difference between the actual purchase price and the invoice that was eventually submitted by Dlamini to the authority for tax payment.

The investigations further found that had the original invoice been paid as is, Dlamini would have dug deeper into his pockets for a sum of E464 372.30 as total tax. This amount would have included a VAT (value added tax) and custom excise amounting to E284 000 plus additional costs such as freight and insurance for the four containers that were shipped into the country with the goods.
However, he only paid a total of E127 401.71 – an amount he paid through three tax invoices.

According to the documents, Dlamini paid E61 778.42 to SRA on February 11, 2020 through receipt number R2049. Again, he paid E52 189.84 as tax through receipt number R2449, and E13 433.45 through receipt number R1949. If you subtract the E127 401.71 which he paid in total to SRA as tax for the containers, it reflects that SRA was short changed a sum of E336 970.59.

An officer at PPV Clearing and Forwarding Company asked not to comment when approached to explain the figures reflected in the invoices. The officer, who emphasised that he was not allowed to speak to the media, however, acknowledged that Dlamini was and still is their client.

divulging information

“I can’t say anything about what you are asking. Speak to Sihle,” the officer said.  He said this before he was allegedly suspended from work for, among other things, divulging information about Dlamini to strangers.

Meanwhile, Vusi Dlamini, SRA’s Head of Corporate Communications, said the law prevents them from discussing taxpayers’ issues with the public. “Firstly, we have to emphasise that as an organisation we do not discuss taxpayers’ issues in the public domain; except in a court of Law. This is in line with the Legislation we administer as well as our policies which emphasise confidentiality of taxpayer information. So we cannot therefore respond to the specific case that your publication is investigating,” Dlamini said.

He continued: “However, it is important to highlight a few principles in general, without reference to the matter at hand; as SRA our job is to drive Voluntary Tax Compliance and we always encouraged our taxpayers, to cooperate with us on the various Legislation we administer and pay all their taxes on time and correctly.

In the course of doing our business, we do note that through our Systems we discover some acts of non-compliance among some delinquent taxpayers and we have the Laws of the land to deal adequately with non-compliance and in particular tax evasion; which robs the state of the needed resources.

We also must commend members of the public who use our whistle blowing line to report suspected cases of tax fraud and corruption; and we must say; in some instances we discover that some of our own staff members sometimes ‘assist’ those delinquent taxpayers to circumvent our processes; however, we ultimately discover such and we ensure that those ‘rotten potatoes’ are terminated from the employ of the organisation if found guilty; as such is a dismissible offence according to our policies.

Those delinquent taxpayers would also face the full wrath of the Law,” Dlamini said. He further encouraged members of the public to continue reporting cases of tax evasion to SRA’s number 800 8000 so that the authority can deal with the scourge of tax fraud and corruption.

Meanwhile, when Sihle Dlamini was called to give his side of the story regarding the documents, something that happened about two months ago, he first demanded to be provided with the invoices and documents seen by the Times.

position to explain

In the process he asked for a questionnaire or that a message should be sent to him so that he could respond in writing. The questionnaire was sent on March 20, 2020 to both his email address and WhatsApp contact. He responded on the following day through his email and this is what he said:

“Thanks for the questionnaire unfortunately my agent is not feeling well to be in a position to explain to me the content of your email, she has asked me to come see her Monday (March 23, 2020), so I can only rightly answer on Monday after my meeting. Secondly, it’s a pity that I have not seen all these documents you are referring to for comparison and ethical journalism determines that one is shown every evidence or accusation levelled against him nasenkantolo bakhipha konkhe bakukhombise bese uticambela akho emanga nawufuna, so your reluctance to show me the documents is suspect.

 I would like to ask though, if this matter is indeed lena bewungifunela ngayo kutsi sitokhulumela phansi ngoba tidla ekhaya on the 6th of March 2020?”

The Times has, for some time, been making attempts to meet Dlamini but such efforts hit a snag. Even though Dlamini had agreed through a corresponding message between the Managing Editor, Martin Dlamini, to arrange a meeting where the Times SUNDAY would have presented the evidence in its possession, the meeting could not been convened due to issues of security.

undated video

The meeting was scheduled for April 9, 2020 and Dlamini wanted the meeting to be convened at Nkhanini even though he had been invited to the Times offices.

Recently, Dlamini has been seen in an undated video claiming he would build roads and bridges for the country for free 15 years from now. He has also alleged in another circulating video that there is a certain journalist who writes anything he likes about him and this journo is ‘sent by the devil’. In the same vein, he issued threats against the Times Group of Newspapers.
What the General Import & Export Rules say:

Goods imported into Swaziland may be cleared under one of the following customs procedures within seven (7) days of the date on which they are deemed to have been imported:
l    Home consumption
l    Warehousing (later cleared for home consumption or re-export)
l    Transit/in bond
l    Temporary admission

For customs clearance purposes, the importer should submit the following:
Customs declaration document - ‘Form E’ for personal declarations worth less than E15 000 and SAD500 for all other declarations.
Supporting documents - invoice, transport document, certificate of origin, permits and any other document that may be required for verification purposes). During the compiling of this report the exchange rate used was that of january 2020.

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