HARARE – Proposals by the government to introduce a new fuel levy have been met with disbelief and anger by long-suffering Zimbabweans, who are reeling from a raft of other recent taxes which were introduced by President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped administration.
The controversial plan, which was announced on Thursday, calls for a fuel levy to bankroll the Road Accident Fund (Raf), which will provide insurance cover to people involved in motor vehicle accidents, as well as their families.
The president of the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (Paz), Tafadzwa George Goliati, said yesterday that while the fund was welcome, it should not be bankrolled through a fuel levy.
“People are already overtaxed. There are other avenues of raising money towards the Raf, as we already have a raft of other taxes on fuel.
“While we advocated for this (Raf insurance), they have now excluded us on this noble cause. We proposed the idea to them, but we did not want the fund to get money from a fuel levy,” Goliati told the Daily News.
When the new tax becomes effective, it will also mean that Zimbabwe’s petroleum industry, which is reeling from myriad taxes and levies, will rival Malawi in the country with the highest fuel taxes in the region.
Former Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister, Tapiwa Mashakada, said the government was creating “another slush fund” which it could abuse.
“There is no justification whatsoever for such a fund. At the present moment, accidents and insurance is covered by the Road Traffic Act. That’s why motorists have to buy third party or comprehensive cover insurance.
“Hospitals are not equipped to handle accident injuries and that’s where the problem is. It has nothing to do with medical insurance cover. This is another looting avenue by the State,” Mashakada said.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, said the country needed “less taxes and more growth”.
“I tell you, they will soon tax us an oxygen levy for breathing,” Mafume said, tongue-in-cheek.
“We continue to milk a bleeding cow. Which part of ‘there is no money in the country’ do these people not understand?
“As it is, our fuel remains high in spite of the fact that oil prices are the lowest they have ever been. This is a vampire State gone wild,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Daily News understands that Transport minister Joram Gumbo has already submitted the proposal to Cabinet and that the concept paper is being worked on by a multi-stakeholder committee.
Soon after, the completed documents are expected to be brought before Parliament for interrogation and possible legislation of the fund.
The government’s proposal comes as the State is struggling to raise revenue to fund many of its everyday functions.
In a bid to shore up its heavily depleted coffers, the government early this year slapped suffering small businesses with a raft of taxes, as well as hiking traffic fines by nearly 100 percent.
Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, stand accused of turning the once thriving local economy, which at one time was regarded as the bread basket of Africa, into a basket case.