Faltering Zim businesses urge Mnangagwa to rein in greedy councils, open credit lines and scrap taxes

Spread This News

By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

CLUTCHED between a rock and a hard place, underperforming Zimbabwean business enterprises have called for a reversal of latest rounds of tariff increases by both urban and rural local authorities.

Business people argue due to depressed economic activity, earnings have significantly dipped while councils, incongruently, recently implemented new tariff regimes, including shop licences, which they are finding difficult to pay.

For instance, Chinhoyi Municipality reviewed shop licence fees from an average US$200 per annum last year, up to US$600 this year.

The new fees are payable once-off without room for payment plans forcing operators to close shop for non-compliance.

In stark violation to standing government policy promoting local currency, Karoi Town Council is reportedly flatly refusing to accept “worthless” local bond notes.

The situation has triggered corruption as municipal officials demand bribes to allow defaulters unhindered operations.

During an interface with Zanu PF national political commissar, Mike Bimha at Orange Grove Motel in Chinhoyi Thursday, stakeholders expressed displeasure at various councils unilaterally hiking tariffs and pegging them beyond the reach of many.

Broke councils, stakeholders said, were passing on revenue generation burdens on businesses from which they were now demanding hefty tariffs.

Former Chinhoyi Zanu PF councillor and businessman, Richard Chafausipo called on the government to assist councils by increasing allocations of intergovernmental transfers, commonly known as devolution funds.

“I think you have heard the clamour surrounding shop licences. In my own wisdom, it would be prudent if government increases devolution funds, which they must also disburse timeously,” said Chafausipo.

“The current situation has seen councils unfairly passing on the load to maintain infrastructure on businesses which are also struggling to survive.

“The obtaining environment is chaotic with illegal pirate taxis on one hand, vendors on the other, impassable roads and water shortages…the operating environment is not conducive for business to strive,” he added.

A female tobacco farmer from Banket, Zandile Maseko, appealed to contractors of the golden leaf to pay competitive prices at auction floors, as poor returns were discouraging farmers.

Women entrepreneurs at the forum were equivocal that Zimbabwe needed a truly land bank offering loans at concessionary rates without demanding collateral security.

They said the prevailing situation was inhibiting borrowing as businesspeople, particularly women and the disabled, did not have properties such as houses to deposit as collateral.

Kariba Business Consortium representatives decried the dual taxing of fisheries by institutions such as Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife (ZimParks) as well as Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), which both demand payment of lake entry fees.

They appealed to government to scrap or amalgamate some taxes.

Vengai Mhlanga, who was representing a mining explosives manufacturing firm, asked authorities to consider removing the 40% premium on imported raw materials used in making explosives paid as duty and Value Added Tax (VAT).

He said the small mining explosives manufacturer located in Chinhoyi was struggling to stay afloat in the wake of an influx of imports of finished products from South Africa and Zambia.

“In the end it makes no sense that we proceed with our operations, as we can bring them (explosives), open our warehouse and start selling and send home employees we have on the ground. So please help us in that regard,” said Mhlanga.

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka told the gathering the “no-holds-barred” meeting was an opportunity for Bimha as Mnangagwa’s “chief listener” to gather stakeholders’ concerns for onward transmission to his principal, who would use it to inform policies and programmes.

A feedback meeting has been conveniently slated for April, a few weeks before 2023 harmonised elections expected in July.