EDITORIAL: Diaspora Tax proposal a Zanu PF pyramid scheme

The recent internationally coordinated effort to stifle possible sources of money laundering and terrorist financing has increased the cost of sending remittances to Zimbabwe by increased costs to Money Transfer companies like Western Union, hence a sizable amount of remittances is now sent through informal channels and Zanu PF has seized this opportunity by setting up a large network of its people in the Diaspora running money transfer agencies and money laundering schemes.

In this case, the scheming Robert Mugabe’s people in the United Kingdom duped the Finance Minister Tendai Biti and some proper exiled Zimbabwean academics who attended a conference at the Manchester University where the unlawful plan to tax exiled Zimbabweans was deliberated by people parading their unchallenged patriotic hubris. Like their dear leader. 

In the face of hostilities between the two governments of Zimbabwe and Britain since the fall-out between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the two governments have kept a long standing bilateral agreement which governs bilateral relations that includes issues circumventing double taxation and many countries host to exiled Zimbabweans have similar arrengements.

But, surprisingly, this group masquerading as Zimbabwean academics sought to gang up and mug unsuspecting Zimbabwean folks working hard to feed their families back home by influencing one of the key members of the coalition government and Finance Minister, Tendai Biti in the discussion of this unlawful scheme.

The Manchester pyramid gang, as they are now called in some circles, gathered and show-cased their agenda in hybrid fancy, colourful power-point presentations that sought to impress and cohers unsuspecting the Finance Minister and other unsophisticated members of the public into believing in this immoral, unlawful money laundering scheme, a tax levy on people in the Diaspora.

When Zimbabweans are grappling with a bunch of highly super-educated academic politicians at home, another group pops up with some financial engineering hubris and conspiracy to defraud innocent folks on behalf of the government.

What this pyramid gang must be told is that, to this day, there is growing concern about money laundering schemes and terrorist financing as the world views the effects of these criminal activities on the integrity and functioning of financial systems, good governance, financial stability and economic development.

The irony of paying for Zanu PF thugs terrorising our relatives in villages driving latest models of Nissan Navara 4X4s bought by the rogue Central Bank Governor using our very hard-earned money, is a very painful thing to contemplate.

In the United Kingdom, there are many people from all over the World who have been here before us (Zimbabweans) for decades and they’re still sending money to families in their respective countries without making any farce of some government agencies involved in seeking to harness funds by way of a special tax on a none resident.

Since the 17th century, the British East India Company brought over thousands of South Asian lascars, scholars and workers to Britain, from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and these people have multiplied in numbers for decades, but they have never been exposed to their respective countries’ taxmen, even when they have better academics amongst their communities.

In London, there is a whole load of Nigerians and people from Ghana who have lived in the United Kingdom for years, but they are not being taxed by their respective countries in exchange for electoral or citizenship reforms.

The same can be said of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States where Mexican Americans account for more than 12.5% of United States’ population.

Blackmailing politicians as an instrument to influence reforms is the least we can do in this 21st century, and breeds corruption. Period!

In any case, many Zimbabweans have since acquired citizenships in their respective countries where they took refuge, but due to extended family responsibilities and obligations to look after their relatives, any form or effort to discourage them to do so by adding an extra cost as a levy will be strongly rebuffed and will suffer the same fate as Robert Mugabe’s War Vets levy.

It is not an open secret that Zanu PF politicians are running money transfer agencies which are collecting money from Zimbabweans living and working in exile and through the Central Bank Governor, Gideon Gono’s secretive network spread across the country, the money we send is dispatched to our relatives in Zimbabwe’s street corners, pubs and cafes.

The document titled Moving Forward in Zimbabwe Reducing Poverty and Promoting Growth carries many good proposals cutting across all sectors of the economy, but the authors have been infiltrated by some unscrupulous elements with financial interests if the plan succeeds.

The infiltrators have been briefed by their Zanu PF handlers and the plan is to use the coalition government’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti who is a Senior member of the Movement for Democratic Change and key figure in the coalition talks.

Money sent home by Zimbabwean migrants constitutes the a large financial inflow into the Zimbabwean economy,

Remittances from abroad contribute to economic growth and to the livelihoods of needy people worldwide.

Remittances also foster, in the receiving countries, a further economic dependence on the global economy instead of building sustainable, local economies, this therefore could expose the Zimbabwean economy to World financial instability if finances from the Diaspora becomes part of the core revenue streams to support the Budget.

The World Bank and the Bank for International Settlements have developed international standards for remittance services.

In 2004 the G8 countries met at the Sea Island Summit and decided to take action to lower the costs for migrant workers who send money back to their friends and families in their country of origin. These countries won’t allow a Third World country like Zimbabwe to collect tax revenue from within their territories.

On realising that he was duped the Finance Minister has since distanced himself from the proposal, saying he was absolutely opposed to the idea contrary to media reports.

There has been massive reports in the media that Mr Biti has proposed taxing Diaspora in exchange to dual citizenship and voting rights.

We hope Mr Biti must, now aware of the dangers of attending any dodgy gatherings without adequate research on the implications of his political profile.

Most of the Biti blame-game on the Diaspora tax proposal has been heavily covered by the Central Bank Governor’s website Newzimbabwe.com which was well represented by its editor Mduduzi Mathuthu and his boss Jeff Madzingo of Destiny Financial Services.

The Birmingham based Jeff Madzingo, is the Central Bank Governor’s proxy, of his major shareholding at the New Zimbabwe Media Ltd, publishers of the Newzimbabwe.com and he is said to be the brains behind turning the website into a Zanu PF outfit.

Most of the Zanu PF linked money transfer agencies have advertising banners at newzimbabwe.com and hence the website has its financial interest in this Manchester pyramid scheme despite Mathuthu’s public posturing condemning it.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday Minister Biti said " The document in question is a rich and respectable but I don’t agree and neither do I support their proposal to tax Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in return for dual citizenship and voting rights. I don’t agree with that. As a government we can only encourage our Children out there to invest in their country" he said.

Minister Biti emphasized that there was no point in arm-twisting the Diaspora when the country was already benefiting from their inflows. He said in 2009 alone Diaspora injected USD$ 159 million into the economy, a development which he said needed acknowledgement and appreciation. The money was sent to families through agencies such as Western Union and Money gram.

"What we can encourage Zimbabweans in the Diaspora is to invest in their home country. Naturally they are the ones who must benefit from the abundant resources. If they fail to do so they may find South Africans benefiting at their expense. We don’t want that to happen" Biti said.

Last week it has been widely reported in the media that Biti had allegedly produced a document in which he had proposed to tax Diaspora ns in return for dual citizenship and voting rights. The news had sparked anger among Diaspora who felt that it was tantamount to selling them their rights.

In fact, Biti was a merely presenting the said academic document which was prepared by Zimbabweans based in Manchester, United Kingdom.

For years, the Zimbabwe Central Bank has been used to run money laundering schemes by Zanu PF leaders and many hardworking Zimbabweans in exile have lost huge amounts of money through bogus housing schemes such as the Homelink.

Many Zimbabweans in the Diaspora were conned into believing that they were buying housing stands in Borrowdale Brooke, Harare’s posh suburb and it turned out to be a farm located in Domboshava, near Mverechena business Centre. The farms are a few kilometres from the real Borrowdale Brooke, but they fall outside the boundaries of Harare City Council and they are party of Goromonzi rural council, hence is no water and sewage infrastructures.

Meanwhile, in another Zanu PF dark world of scheming plots, scores of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora who have invested in real estate through businessman Phillip Chiyangwa’s flagship Pinnacle Properties now stand to lose out after a major dispute erupted between him and the Harare City Council over how the former acquired vast tracts of land in prime residential areas of the city.

The city council recently ordered Chiyangwa’s Kilma Investments to suspend work on a multi-million dollar hotel project in Borrowdale stating that the development was ‘illegal’.

Investigations have now been widened to ascertain how Chiyangwa rose to become one of the largest property owners in the city. Councillors allege that the flamboyant businessman traded second-rate industrial property for prime residential land targeting the Diaspora market.

Chiyangwa confirmed last week that he had swapped industrial stands for ‘open spaces’ in residential areas but insisted that it was at the city’s request after it ran out of industrial properties wanted by investors.

Mayor Muchadei Masunda said the probe had been prompted by an ‘outcry’ from the public over Chiyangwa’s business activities.

Chiyangwa, however alleged that Masunda was an interested party as he was a shareholder in Old Mutual and John Sisk, both competitors to the former.

The businessman is a also a close relative of president Robert Mugabe who has amassed vast amounts of wealth springing from his close relationship with the first family.