BY BLESSED MHLANGA
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) have been taken to court for double taxation on rice imports.
The matter was filed yesterday at the High Court under case number HC 1035/21 by Vongai Zimudzi, a human rights activist through her lawyer Obey Shava.
She wants government, through any of its agents, to be stopped from collecting value-added tax (VAT) from rice importers, saying this has resulted in prices of rice going up by between 20% and 25%.
“That it be and is hereby declared that all rice (including in husk or husked) semi-milled or milled, broken in packages of less than 25kg and more are VAT exempt from February 22, 2016,” read part of the sought order.
“I make the application not only in regard of my own interests, but generally in the interests of other consumers of rice in Zimbabwe. This application is also made in the public interest because of limitations that have been created with the cost and, therefore, access to rice as a staple food for consumption reaches all consumers of rice in Zimbabwe,” Zimudzi said.
She added that in terms of Statutory Instrument 20 of 2017, semi-milled or wholly-milled rice was VAT exempt, yet retailers under the instructions of Zimra were charging the tax.
She further argued that government wanted to backdate its collection of VAT on retailers who have not been charging it over a period of four years, adding that the action could affect consumers as business would simply pass on the cost.
“I have a legitimate fear and apprehension that the intended action by Zimra and Ncube in backdating VAT on rice packages of 25kg and below, which has not been charged on rice for a period of almost four years would contravene my rights to ‘administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, impartial and both substantively and procedurally fair’ in violation of section 68(1) of the Constitution.”