Mugove Tafirenyika 6 January 2019
HARARE – The cash-strapped government has amended the Finance Bill to
enable it to tax foreign satellite service providers such as Multichoice.
Parliament has acceded to the amendment of Section 14 of the Income Tax
Act so that fees and charges that are paid to foreign satellite service
providers are deemed as income sourced from Zimbabwe for the purposes of
During debate on the Finance Bill, some lawmakers had resisted the
amendment on the basis that it was not enough to seek to tax foreign
providers of broadcasting services in Zimbabwe.
Harare East Member of Parliament Tendai Biti had in fact proposed that the
Act be amended so that the method of calculating income tax in Zimbabwe
moves from residents to source.
It was, however, not the first time that government had advocated for the
In 2013, Parliament passed a new Income Tax Act which introduced, in a
revolutionary manner, the method of calculating tax from residence to
While it sailed through both Houses, then president Robert Mugabe refused
to put his signature to it.
Biti had also reasoned that thousands of Zimbabweans are watching and
paying foreign suppliers of broadcasting services because of poor
programming from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
“The real issue is that we must attend to the issue of media reform.
Thirty-eight years after independence is not good enough that we have one
broadcasting house called Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
“So, our people are paying Multichoice and DStv because we cannot watch
the unpalatable, disgusting Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
“That is the real issue. There must be media reform. In this country there
must be a liberalisation of the airwaves and this does not cost money.
Unlike other reforms, introducing and liberalising the media airwaves does
not cost money. It must happen now, today, namnhla,” Biti said.
Dzivarasekwa lawmaker Edwin Mushoriwa had also backed Biti’s call to open
up the airwaves.
“I think the call and the reason why people in this country, each and
every household – I think they are very few that watch ZBC and can
probably do so during the news hour. The majority of the people do not do
“The clause here where the minister feels that money is going to
Multichoice and other satellite broadcasting can easily be cured if this
country would open the airwaves and we have more broadcasting, we will not
be having this problem because most of the people will have a choice,”
Despite opposition from some MPs, Ncube won the backing of the majority of
the lawmakers who endorsed the amendment.
In his argument, the Finance minister insisted that the clause was about
the foreign service providers and not the domestic providers.
“I cannot believe that anyone is opposed to this very progressive clause
about making sure that foreign service providers comply. The issue about
the domestic service provider is another issue. I rest my case and propose
that the clause is adopted as is so that foreign service providers of this
kind of content can be taxed accordingly and contribute to the fiscus in
Zimbabwe,” he said.
Media surveys suggest that the majority of Zimbabweans still rely on the
State-controlled ZBC radio and television channels for news and
Although some Zimbabweans have access to Multichoice programming, many
cannot afford the service.
The State has, in recent years, issued radio licences to entities
connected to the ruling party and government in a bid to provide a veneer
Zimbabwe, with its one national television station, lags behind the rest
of the continent in broadcasting plurality, despite being the second
African country – after Nigeria – to see the introduction of a television
service in 1960.