FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday shelved implementation of Statutory Instrument 20 (SI20), which imposed 15% VAT on rice, meat, potatoes, margarine, cereals and mahewu, telling MPs in a ministerial statement that he first had to consult before introducing the levy.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
SI20 became effective on February 1, raising prices of all meat products, and in the process causing a public outcry among consumers and livestock producers.
“Following our debate and stakeholders’ representation, where concerns have been raised regarding SI20, I am proposing to shelve implementation of SI20, which levies VAT on the listed products,” Chinamasa said.
“This will allow for further consultation with relevant stakeholders, and these consultations begin with Parliament because I need input from the House.”
The Finance minister, however, said he had to get something to tax in order to get revenue to pay salaries and finance other activities, but MPs could be heard interjecting, saying he needed to cut down on the Executive’s foreign travels.
Chinamasa told the House that he charged the 15% VAT on the products on the basis of Sadc protocols that Zimbabwe ratified, where member States are supposed to harmonise tax regimes.
“Sadc created a list of zero-rated and exempt products, saying they must be streamlined to broaden the tax base, enhance revenue collection, minimise corruption, and ensure similarity, equitability and fairness in member States,” he said.
Chinamasa said Zimbabwe had one of the longest lists of zero-rated products such as maize, mealie meal, wheat, bread, cooking oil, fruits, salt and others, while countries like Zambia, Lesotho and Namibia minimised their lists of zero-rated products to items such as rice, vegetables and eggs.
MPs described Chinamasa as one of the “sane” and reasonable ministers in President Robert Mugabe’s government.
“He is so good, he is the only minister who does not have Zanu PF DNA. The steps taken by Chinamasa are good because the goods were basic necessities for Zimbabweans and the impact of taxing them is huge in terms of the cost of living,” Binga North MP, Prince Dubeko Sibanda said.
Meanwhile, MPs blasted corrupt tendencies in State procurement procedures, saying the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill, which went through the Committee stage in the National Assembly, must address regional and gender discrimination in the award of tenders, as well as corruption.
MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said there was so much discriminàtion that tenders were confined to Harare only and regions like Matabeleland and women never got tenders.
“Are you saying all people from Matabeleland are so daft that they cannot get into economic issues?” she said.
Dangamvura-Chikanga MP, Esau Mupfumi said she was being tribalistic, but Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda discarded the point of order, saying there was nothing tribalistic about raising issues of marginalisation of certain provinces, adding there were Shona people in Bulawayo just as there were Ndebeles in Harare.