By Thomas Chidamba
Tension is simmering between miners and Rural District Councils over the pricing of the recently introduced Land Unit Tax.
The Land Unit Tax is a legal obligation for miners to pay a certain amount of money to their respective Rural District Councils they operate in
The mines and Mineral Act Chapter 21:05 section 255 indicates that that miners make certain payments to local authorities whereas the Rural District Councils Act 29:13 section 96 1a-e requires owners of land within the jurisdiction of the RDC to pay development levies.
Miners, albeit not in defiant, feel that there are discrepancies in the pricing of the levy and are of the view that Rural District Councils are ripping them off.
Through the Miners representative body, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), miners want Rural District Council to charge uniform fees for the land development levy.
In a memorandum to all miners and also addressed to Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Permanent Secretary Mr Onesimo Moyo, ZMF Chief Executive Officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha alleged that the miners were disturbed by the discrepancies in the charging of Rural District Council Land Unit Tax.
“ZMF Executive and Management Board wishes to relay its dismay on the current set up which prescribes that miners are now required to pay Rural District Councils first before paying and updating for the certificate of inspection as required by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
“ZMF wants to make it categorically clear that this set up is not a prescribed legal requirement but was a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and the Ministry of Local Government,” wrote Mr Takavarasha.
He further wrote that, this situation of ‘holding miners at ransom’, was disturbing their operations.
“This has adversely affected artisanal and small scale mining operations administrative and logistical arrangements.
“The RDCs have their own system of getting payments from miners which does not necessarily ransom them,” Mr Takavarasha wrote.
In response, Mr Moyo said his ministry has since engaged Ministry of Local Government to find common ground on the matter.
“The Ministry (of Mines and Mining Development) is working with Ministry of Local Government to find common ground in resolving issues relating to Land Unit Tax by local authorities which are affecting the mining companies,” Mr Moyo said.
ZMF, in its bid to solve the issue, engaged the Association of Rural District Councils of Zimbabwe pleading with them to assist in synchronizing the Land Unit Tax across all RDCs.
Mr Takavarasha said miners are not restating meeting their legal obligation, but they feel some RDCs are charging exorbitant levies.
“After a series of meetings between the ministry of Mines and Mining Development and Ministry of Local Government they agreed that it is now a prerequisite for miners to pay RDC Development Levies first before updating certificates of inspection with the ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
“Unfortunately, this set up has been abused by most RDCs hop have apparently now held the miners at ransom and are charging miners development levies indiscriminately and ironically twice to ten-fold far more than the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development inspection fees.
“Miners across the country have complained bitterly about the levies that they are now required to pay. Please note that the miners are not against paying the levies to RDCs but strongly feel the new charges are unscrupulous,” Mr Takavarasha said.
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development charges ZWL$1000. 00 as inspection fees for a ten (10) hectare claim.
In some charges by Rural District Councils gleaned by this reporter, Bindura Rural Council is charging $2200, Mazowe $4500, and Rushinga $9000.
Association of Rural District Councils of Zimbabwe Dr Isaac Matsilele said all RDCs are guided by the laws of the country.
“Rural District Councils are guided by Section 96(1)(b) that states ‘subject to this part, a council may impose development levy upon all persons who, on fixed the date, become owners of mining locations situated on rural land within the council area for (i) gold, silver, platinum or precious stones and employing, more than five workers.
“Further, to this section, RDCs are further instructed by the RDC Act under the same Section 96(3)(d) that ‘A levy shall be
0 assessed upon the person upon whom it is imposed in terms of subsection (1) or (2)(i) in the case of land development levy- A, in accordance with the third Schedule’ of which, the Third Schedule of the RDC Act under Section 2(1) makes the following categories: I if he employs more than 5 but not more than 100 workers, I unit; ii if he employs more than 100 workers, 1unit; a for the first woo workers, 1unit, b thereafter. For each 50 workers or part thereof, 1unit,” Dr Matsilele wrote.
He urged all RDCs to uniformly classify the rates land development levy as required by the Rural District Councils Act Section 96 1(a).
Dr Matsilele turned down the request by ZMF to have all RDCs charge the same amount saying the action would be against the law.
“Standardising the quantum of the rate as requested is ultra vires the provisions of the Rural District Councils Act. The Act explicitly states that in Section 96(4): whenever a council imposes a land development levy . . . the council shall fix an amount which shall be the unit of land development levy for the purposes of that schedule.
“notwithstanding, RDCs are required to provide basis for the fixed levy which is, in most cases guided by the budget of the land authority, cost of doing business and burden of taxation,” he said.
Association, ZMF appealed for the synchronization of the land development levy across all district councils.