Re­set­tled farm­ers fume over land tax

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bureau

SOME ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the land re­form pro­gramme owe up to $60 000 each in land rentals that were in­tro­duced by the Gov­ern­ment last year, af­ter pay­ments were back­dated to 2009, a sit­u­a­tion that has made farm­ers call for ur­gent pol­icy re­view.

The levy ini­ti­ated through the Fi­nance Act No 8 of 2015 pro­vides for $3 land rentals per hectare per year, and $2 unit tax per hectare an­nu­ally for A2 farm­ers, while A1 Com­mu­nal farm­ers pay $10 land rentals per year, and $5 unit tax over the same pe­riod.

The Min­istry of Lands and Ru­ral Re­set­tle­ment col­lects the money and for­wards it to Trea­sury be­fore the lat­ter al­lo­cates the unit tax to re­spec­tive lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Farm­ers in Mashona­land Cen­tral, Mashona­land East, Man­i­ca­land and Masvingo told a Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee that was con­duct­ing public hear­ings on the Land Com­mis­sion Bill last week that the land rentals were crip­pling them.

Mashona­land Cen­tral Se­na­tor, Cde Damian Mumvuri, chaired the joint com­mit­tee of the Se­nate The­matic Com­mit­tee on Peace and Se­cu­rity, and the Na­tional As­sem­bly’s Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture, Lands and Ir­ri­ga­tion Devel­op­ment.

The South­ern African Par­lia­men­tary Sup­port Trust and the United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme spon­sored the public hear­ings.

Zim­babwe Com­mer­cial Farm­ers Union Masvingo pro­vin­cial chair­per­son Mr Liv­ing­stone Mabika told the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee at Roy Busi­ness Cen­tre in Masvingo North that the blan­ket charge of $5 was not sus­tain­able for farm­ers in re­gions three, four and five.

“Each beast takes about three years to ma­ture, of which it grazes about 12 hectares per year, mean­ing that if you sell it at two years, you would have paid $120 land levy with­out fac­tor­ing in the other costs, which are ob­vi­ously way more than that,” said Mr Mabika.

“It’s gloomy in the sense that in this prov­ince, some farm­ers have about 1 500 hectares for cat­tle ranch­ing, mean­ing that they are ex­pected to pay $7 500 in rentals per year. To make mat­ters worse, they back­dated the rentals to when we dol­larised in 2009. In essence, some farm­ers are ex­pected to have paid about $60 000 in rentals.”

He said there was con­fu­sion as to when ex­actly farm­ers were ex­pected to pay as there were dif­fer­ent dates in pol­icy pro­nounce­ments.

One pol­icy pro­nounce­ment in­di­cated that farm­ers will pay land rentals and devel­op­ment levies from Jan­uary 2015, and an­other one said with ef­fect from July 2015, yet when im­ple­ment­ing the pol­icy, of­fi­cials from the Min­istry of Lands and Ru­ral Re­set­tle­ment back­dated pay­ments to 2009.

Mashona­land Cen­tral farmer and wife to the late Zanla com­man­der Gen­eral Josiah Magama Ton­gog­ara, Cde Angeline Kumbi­rai Ton­gog­ara, told the same com­mit­tee that there was con­fu­sion on the land levy.

“The levy was only in­tro­duced last year. All along, we have been pay­ing taxes to coun­cil, yet we are now be­ing told that we are in ar­rears that run into thou­sands of dol­lars. For in­stance, they’re now say­ing I should pay the levy since 2011.

“The big­gest chal­lenge is that there’s lack of in­for­ma­tion from the min­istry. They’re say­ing the levy was writ­ten about in the press, but some of us are liv­ing at the farms, so we’ve no ac­cess to the press,” she said.

An­other Mashona­land Cen­tral farmer, Mrs Buppe Changara, wi­dow of the late na­tional hero who was the of­fi­cer com­mand­ing Po­lice Pro­tec­tion Unit, Se­nior As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Win­ston Changara, also told the com­mit­tee that the land levy made it dif­fi­cult for the ma­jor­ity of farm­ers.

“Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced land tax as from last year but when we were given in­voices, you find that land taxes have been im­ple­mented from the date one was given an of­fer let­ter. I was given an of­fer let­ter af­ter the death of my hus­band in 2007, which comes into thou­sands of dol­lars — about $40 000. I don’t know how I’m go­ing to pay that,” said Mrs Changara.

Mashona­land East sec­re­tary for A2 Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, Mr Colum­bus Ziny­oro said there was con­fu­sion on where farm­ers were ex­pected to pay their rentals be­tween the lo­cal author­ity and the Min­istry of Lands and Ru­ral Re­set­tle­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the law, “The devel­op­ment levy shall be used to meet ex­pen­di­ture on the projects within the ru­ral dis­trict coun­cil area from which the levy was col­lected.

“The projects in­clude gully recla­ma­tion and other works re­lated to soil con­ser­va­tion and pre­ven­tion of soil ero­sion, pro­vi­sion, op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of hos­pi­tals, clin­ics, dis­pen­saries and schools and other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, fa­cil­i­ties and ameni­ties con­nected there­with.”

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