via MPs propose hut tax | The Financial Gazette by Clemence Manyukwe 29 Jan 2014
LAWMAKERS have made controversial tax proposals to enable cash-strapped councils to crawl out of the current financial quagmire, among them the re-introduction of the colonial hut tax.In a report tabled in Parliament last week, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government said councils must be innovative and devise ways of raising funds through such instruments as the much-loathed hut tax.
They said the 2014 National Budget violated the Constitution as it failed to allocate funds to the Chiefs’ Council while inadequate funds were availed to metropolitan and provincial councils.
For instance, metropolitan and provincial councils were only given US$12 million out of Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s US$4,4 billion budget unveiled mid December.
As per the new Constitution, these were entitled to five percent of the budget, which means Treasury should have set aside US$206 million for this purpose.
The Chiefs’ Council was allocated nothing, also in violation of section 305 of the new charter.
“The (Local Government) Ministry submitted a bid of US$2 million but no allocation was made. Your committee is of the view that this is tantamount to violating the Constitution, thus rendering the budget unconstitutional,” reads part of the report.
Chinamasa had an uphill task in attempts to balance government’s books amid dwindling revenues and ballooning expenditures.
He conceded during his presentation last month that his budget was tilted towards policies that would steer the country forward after more than a decade of economic turmoil.
But the committee risks riling the generality of the population after it suggested a raft of taxes such as hut, cattle, bicycles and land taxes to improve councils’ cash flows.
In their report, the lawmakers ignored the additional financial burdens this could cause on ordinary Zimbabweans, already reeling from high unemployment and low salaries.
Part of the report reads: “Your committee observed that while councils were complaining about lack of funds, they were ignoring potential sources of revenue generation such as hut, herd, dog, bicycle and land taxes, in addition to the development levy.”
The hut tax, in particular, was a loathed instrument throughout colonial Africa as a result of the injustices and cruelty that were associated with its collection by racist administrators.
Taxation was used as a way of driving people into working for money and the competence of colonial officials was often measured by how much tax they collected.
Hut tax was first introduced at the rate of 10 shillings per hut in 1894, before it was doubled in 1904. It was collected by the British South Africa Company.
Some historical accounts say the introduction of the hut tax contributed to the first Chimurenga, the first rebellion against the colonialists by the country’s ancestors in 1896.
In Liberia, its implementation led to the Kru revolt in 1915.