SOMETIME this week, the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers met to discuss ways in which vendors could conduct their business in a way that does not impede on retailers.
By Tatira Zwinoira
This came as property experts say the vendors were now affecting their business in the central business district (CBD). In fact, according to United Kingdom-based real estate agency Knight Frank’s Africa Report 2017/18 vendors were not only chasing retailers away, but companies as well.
To that effect, NewsDay business reporter Tatira Zwinoira (ND) interviewed Navuz chairperson Sten Zvorwadza (SZ) to find out more on the matter.
ND: We hear that you met with retailers this week to discuss how vendors are impeding on the retailers business. What happened at that meeting?
SZ: We are not yet going to media about it because there are issues that we want to resolve. When we start speaking to media, it should then carry the weight it deserves rather than just being a random statement, it won’t work. So, yes we met but we did not resolve or make any resolution on the matter, so it will be pointless to write an issue without any resolutions or road map.
ND: Okay, moving on from that issue. Knight Frank, the international real estate agency, did a report and found that one of the reasons why the office space is declining in the CBD is because of vendors and other institutions have supported these findings for businesses leaving the CBD. What is your comment about that?
SZ: People need to appreciate that we have a challenge of a good percentage of Zimbabweans who are not formally employed, and because they are not formally employed they have to eke a living. So they engage in informal work and that is normal, there is no abnormality in that one.
It is normal in the sense that when more people are in the informal economy a lot of space will be used up by these people trying to make a living. It is morally incorrect for people to perceive that the informal economy workers as a problem. Instead, people should embrace the informal economy and seek ways how it can be formalized.
ND: But, the question still remains that in as much as what you are saying is true, these companies are paying taxes and for long a time Zimra is on record saying it is difficult getting taxes from informal workers or employers. So if one sector is paying taxes and the other isn’t, shouldn’t priority be given to those who are paying taxes?
SZ: Look, I think the issue is not about whether one is paying taxes or not, the issue is about how people can be supported to survive. Businesses want to make profit and individuals are working in the informal economy to eke a living because they want to find something to survive on. What we should be looking at here is how Zimra should embrace the informal economy and tap into the income that they are not getting.
That should not be put as blame on the informal economy because Zimra should surely be able to come up with methods on how to tap into the income that they are not collecting.
We have come up with different models. Trying to make people understand is what Zimbabwe requires to be able to bring these informal workers on record. Once we have a record, people should be able to trace when and how the taxes should be collected or who, where and when they are paying taxes.
We have already put up a model that we have designed that will make sure that all informal economy workers are documented and government will have a record of them. So far, municipal councils do not have a record of informal economic workers, what they have are pockets of individuals who have registered with them. But, those who are not registered with them, who are not willing to register with them, they are there with no record…
ND: So are you saying that these informal sector workers who will be on the record will be willing to pay taxes?
SZ: Absolutely. All informal economy workers are willing to pay taxes, but as we move towards them paying taxes we should also realise we must not abuse that route of paying taxes because only certain individuals qualify to pay taxes and others who don’t at this time.
We have a tax threshold in Zimbabwe and this tax threshold should be respected. Anyone who is earning above that threshold should be taxed, but anyone earning below should not be taxed, so one way or the other the tax regime should be able to respect those who are falling below the tax regime threshold.
ND: Are you trying to tell me that property experts and real estate agencies are wrong in saying vendors are chasing business out of the CBD?
SZ: They are wrong, yes. Very wrong.