By Cathy Buckle
A beautiful but deadly trio of young Lanner Falcons is perfecting the art of survival on these steamy December days under a bright blue sky and a burning sun.
They wail and scream to each other from the high branches of the deep-green shady msasa trees, alerting each other to birds being flushed, warning of danger, and generally causing panic and alarm in the garden. Sometimes they hunt on the crackly, sunburnt grass, catching insects but mostly they perch higher up, watching and waiting for everything that moves, from little finches and waxbills to mousebirds and doves.
They swoop and descend at speed, diving on flushed birds, chasing, pursuing and catching them on the wing. As little feathers drift down you know a killing’s been made.
And hardly is one dispatched than they start again, looking for the next victim, on the ground, in the trees, in the air; nowhere is safe.
It all feels very much like what’s happening in Zimbabwe at the moment.
Zimbabwe’s minister of finance presented a Z$58.2 trillion budget to parliament last week.
And there’s nowhere to hide, not for anyone; the government awaits from on high to pick over our carcasses.
Everyone is shocked at the levels they’ve sunk to and, like everything else, we just can’t believe this will actually happen.
Here are a few of the punitive new things that await us from January 2024 …
Passport fees are going up over 60% from US$120 to US$200. Vehicle registration fees and fuel prices are going up, and highway toll gates are increasing by 150% from US$2 to US$5 on ‘premium roads’ and to US$4 on all other roads.
The cost of everything from food to fuel and anything else that is moved by road will inevitably have to rise as a result.
The Grain Millers Association is already predicting that the price of a loaf of bread will increase by 100% from US$1 to US$2 [around R38] in January 2024.
Wealth tax, scrambling-to-get by tax
The next carcass to pick over is apparently home owners – people who work and save for years, take mortgages, borrow money and finally buy their own homes.
Home owners are now to be punished for their hard work by something the minister of finance calls the Wealth Tax, which will see private homes being valued by the government and if they say your house is worth over US$100 000, you will be charged 1% of the value every year.
This is despite the fact that you already pay rates every month to local council and capital gains tax when you sell your home.
The minister says this Wealth Tax will be used for “urban infrastructure … roads, water, sewer and community health centres”.
I dare not comment. Read between the lines.
Next up are backyard chicken producers and informal traders. They will now have to be registered for value-added tax (VAT) and have valid tax clearance certificates before they will be allowed to procure goods (including stockfeed) from manufacturers and wholesalers.
This is going to be a disaster for people everywhere who survive on buying wholesale goods and selling them on roadsides or rearing chickens in their gardens.
You can hardly go a single block in any direction without an informal trader selling groceries on the roadside or advertising chickens and eggs for sale.
Safety deposit boxes and cold drinks
If you’ve stashed your cash in a safety deposit box because you don’t trust the banks (a widespread feeling here) you’re also going to be done as the minister is going to give Zimra, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, powers to open safe deposit boxes “at any time to ascertain the contents”.
This includes safe deposit boxes at banks, financial institutions, and security and other companies that offer custodial services.
If you’ve survived so far, why not retreat with a cold drink into a shady patch and read this one last little gem: a US 2 cent [around 38c in SA terms] tax per gram of sugar in fizzy drinks is starting in January in order to “discourage consumption of high sugar content beverages”.
The minister says the sugar tax will be used for “therapy and procurement of cancer equipment for diagnosis”.
Yeah right. In a country where you can’t even get an injection at a hospital without paying for the needle, syringe, medicine and cotton wool swab. Read between these lines too.
Copyright © Cathy Buckle