WE are concerned by the tendency among some in the country’s leadership to focus on what they can get out of the severely depleted national coffers, instead of concentrating on how they can get the same coffers filled. Previously we had parliamentarians demanding free electricity on top of all their other sizeable perks. Now we have chiefs demanding to be paid more than parliamentarians with President of the Chiefs Council Chief Fortune Charumbira announcing that the traditional leaders have already been granted exemption from paying tollgate levies.
Toll gates are a usage based revenue collection system and while it makes sense for Government vehicles on official business to be exempted, we think that there is no call for any other group of citizens to systematically avoid this tax.
The country’s roads need major upgrading and regular maintenance. Toll gates are the sole source of funding to do the work. The charges recently went up by as much as 100 percent and there is talk of introducing urban tolling to widen the revenue base because there is much that needs to be done.
By exempting some people from paying toll gate levies, we are in fact contracting the revenue base and this will result in further increases for those who have no option, but to pay, which means piling the burden on those at the lowest rung of the ladder. Ordinary Zimbabweans are already heavily taxed through Pay as You Earn, Value Added Tax, Aids Levy, Rural Electrification Levy and others.
While we appreciate the role of traditional leaders and their battle for recognition and due respect, we feel that demanding a myriad of benefits from the fiscus is not the best way to gain ground. It is a fact that chiefs already enjoy considerable benefits from the State and they are a privileged group compared to their subjects.
If they are after a prestige mark and merely want to be perceived as being above the parliamentarians then maybe the chiefs should ask for a downward review of the perks for the other group, not to demand more.
The Government has indicated that there will be no salary hike for civil servants, most of them earning below the Poverty Datum Line.
How can chiefs who are leaders then be demanding a 160 percent allowance increment and new cars on top of exemptions from taxes? Do they have any empathy for the people in their domains who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis?
Do they realise that whatever taxes they choose to evade will be heaped on those same subjects because the money must come from somewhere? In all fairness this culture of always wanting to take and never give is not only limited to chiefs, but appears to be pervasive.
We have seen it clearly illustrated in the scandals emanating from various State enterprises and Government departments as those who should be serving the nation are singularly occupied with enriching themselves through tender procedure flouting, outright theft and the institutionalisation of bribes.
There are too few examples to leaders striving to leave legacies, work for the people and take pride in achieving tangible development for their respective areas.
The majority of those who have been elected or appointed into positions of leadership are merely greedy people out to suck the life of the nation.
It is high time that our leaders understand that there are no free lunches. Someone always pays for whatever they take and that someone is the ordinary person with the least in life.