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Tax protests loom in Zimbabwe

Tendai Kamhungira

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 Zimbabwe is on the brink of crippling protests over the recently introduced tax regime that are seen dampening current efforts aimed at reviving the country’s economy, which has continued on a downward trend, amid serious shortages of goods and escalation of prices.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa (Picture by NewsDay)
ZCTU president Peter Mutasa (Picture by NewsDay)

Last week, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) — the country’s biggest labour body — gave government an ultimatum, threatening to take to the streets to express its anger at the new tax regime.

The move has since received support from other organisations such as the Amalgamated Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), which said protests were a noble idea.

Yesterday, a pressure group called Tajamuka joined in, signalling its intention to mobilise its members to demonstrate against the new tax.

Tajamuka has written to Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube, saying it will take to the streets if the demands are not met.

“The public is unwilling to pay for domestic debt which has not been accounted for. Millions of dollars’ worth of equipment purchased by the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) are in the hands of individuals who have not paid for it, yet the man on the street is now required to assume this debt.

It is unacceptable and reflects great disrespect for the citizen.

“Your colleague RBZ governor (Dr) John Mangudya assured the public that bond notes were backed by a US$200 million facility and that no more than this amount would be printed. That promise has been broken with no show of remorse.

Worse still, the public was assured bond notes would be at par with the US dollar. This is clearly not the case,” Tajamuka said.

Ncube came up with a biting tax regime last week, when he introduced a two cents per dollar taxation for electronic transfers, up from five cents per transaction.

He then made some adjustments on Friday, saying the two cents per dollar tax will only apply to transactions of $10 and above, while intra-company transfers as well as transfers of salaries, tax payments, foreign currency-related payments and transfer of funds by the government will be exempted.

As pressure continues to mount for government to totally scrap the new tax regime, Tajamuka said the domestic debt has grown to over $4 billion since November last year, and nobody knows where the money went to, adding that the spending by Zanu PF in the run-up to the July 30 elections was a cause for concern.

The pressure group said the people of Zimbabwe, in their collective, within and outside the country, totally rejects Ncube’s revenue-generating measures as grossly unfair.

“We urge you to immediately abandon it. Delivery of this letter serves you a one-week ultimatum, expiring on October 15, 2018, to have positively responded to the demands of the people.

“In the event that you choose not to heed the voice of the people, we will embark on an array of constitutionally guaranteed measures to expose government politically.

“The measures will include, but will not be limited to: mass protests, demonstrations, picketing, stay-aways — a total national shut down,” reads part of the letter dated October 5, 2018.

The group said, people can no longer continue to subsidise for politically connected individuals in the name of taxation.

“Your office must pursue those who borrowed farm equipment and other goodies from the Reserve Bank and require them to pay their dues.

Again, we urge you to abandon your cowardly act of targeting citizens to pay for the sins of politicians and senior government officials who are the sole beneficiaries of this debt,” the militant organisation said.

ZCTU on the other hand, said, Ncube’s adjustments were meaningless, claiming it will go ahead with the planned protests on Thursday.

In a statement to its members across the country released over the weekend, ZCTU called upon workers and the general Zimbabweans to join the demonstrations in all regional capitals like Masvingo, Harare, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Mutare and Bulawayo.

Artuz has endorsed the strike call by the ZCTU, saying the protests were a rare opportunity for the working class to demonstrate unity of purpose as they fight against what the union called neo-liberalism packaged in austerity measures.

“Artuz calls upon its members from across the country to join the protest. We further invite all members of the working class, vendors and other ordinary citizens to seize the opportunity and register our discontent with the authorities,” the organisation said in a statement.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing a serious economic crisis that has seen an increase in the shortages of basic commodities, whose prices have also been hiked.

The other resultant effects of the tax regime have been shortages of fuel and the increase in prices of basic commodities, burdening ordinary consumers in the process.

Some retailers have started limiting goods in a bid to avoid hoarding, as people have been buying items in large quantities for speculative purposes.

Products like sugar, rice and cooking oil are being limited to two items per customer, which has negatively impacted on those that will be having weddings and  funerals. Daily News.