By Farayi Machamire
Zanu PF campaign material worth millions of dollars is being imported into Zimbabwe without paying duty at a time the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is struggling to meet its collection targets and the country’s economy is on its knees.
The revelations were made during a question and answer session with parliamentarians in Harare yesterday where Zimra commissioner-general Faith Mazani could neither confirm nor deny that they had been ordered by the ruling party not to levy duty on the items.
MDC Member of Parliament for Chitungwiza North constituency Godfrey Sithole had put the cat among the pigeons after querying why Zimra were doing the biding of the ruling party.
He added that while this was hurting an already ailing economy, it was against the clarion call of free and fair elections.
“I have one question regarding revenue collection at the border. We have information to the effect that there is campaign material specifically for Zanu PF. I am talking about vehicles, I am talking about bags and they are not paying anything to Zimra. Zviri kupinda mahara (They are getting in duty-free). Is this within the confines of the law? Because they can’t enter for free just because they belong to Zanu PF. Even the outgoing president is very clear that there should be free and fair elections,” he said to interjections from Zanu PF Members of Parliament.
Besides vehicles, some of the campaign material acquired by the ruling party for use in the run-up to the July 30 harmonised elections includes bicycles, motorbikes and campaign regalia such as T-shirts, caps, cloth wraps, flags, wrist bangles and other material such as torches, kitchenware and sewing machines.
Mazani’s answer was far from convincing but pregnant with meaning.
“Pabvunzwa mubvunzo wezvimwe zvinhu zviri kufungirwa kuti hazvisi kupinda zvabhandara mutero. Ndiri kuda kuti ndigadzirise ipapo. We don’t allow items to enter the country without paying duty. Asi pane zvikumbiro zvinoitwa zvekuti zvinhu zvinobhadharwa kana zvinhu zvapinda (There are requests that can be made by government that other things get into the country and then pay duty at a later date). If there is anything you see and you think did not pay duty you should ask how we went about, ask with specific information because a lot of these things will have documentation inenge ichitsigira (that will be supporting). I am not talking about parties but some of these perceptions get out there but there will be documentation from government, zvikumbiro kuti zvichazobhadhara zvapinda (requests that certain items will pay duty once they are in the country),” she said to loud interjections.
She added: “There are things called report orders which allow for items to be paid after they have entered the country.”
Asked to comment on how the party had not paid duty on campaign material, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu said:
“If parties want to prove to the country that regalia is coming into country duty-free or not duty let us produce our documentation and we will see who is paying and who is not.”
However, analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said there was no excuse for allowing Zanu PF to have its duty waived.
“This does bleed the ailing economy and speaks of the (rot) in the Zanu PF government. The conflation between party and State is so entrenched that Zanu PF transactions are treated in the same way State transactions are. This is bad. It perpetuates the belling of the economy and decay of our democracy. This is another form of pre-election rigging, putting Zanu PF on a better edge than others parties using power and incumbency and abusing it to make the party get benefits of the State to the detriment of other parties,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
Political analyst and post doctoral researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya said it was not a surprise that Zimra was doing the ruling party’s bidding.
“There is nothing surprising here. This is how the government has been operating for years. Even companies led by top Zanu PF officials don’t pay tax. Since the days of Mugabe, nothing has changed. What has changed is the face but the institutional and structural behaviour remains the same. We saw the police conducting Zanu PF primary elections. I don’t know why people should be surprised,” he said.
Zimra acknowledges that the culture to comply with tax payments in Zimbabwe is at an all time low.
The taxman is currently collecting only 25 percent of the total taxable amount.
Observers reckon if Zimra could collect at least half or three quarters of the total amount due to it, Zimbabwe would not need to turn to Foreign Direct Investment, grants and loans.
Yesterday, there were also questions around why Zimra’s Payee tax was among the highest in Africa and continued to make the poor poorer.
However, Zimra hit back saying taxes were an issue of policy and it was up to the legislators to change the legislation to allow for lower taxes that could see more people paying and boarding the amount of money collected by Zimra.
Zimra called for progressive laws and the help of enforcement agents to collect tax.
Economic experts contend a raft of new taxes were to a large extent self-defeating and discouraged investment. DailyNews