“Mansion Tax Slippery”
4 December 2023
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By Wilbert Mukori- “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle,” said Sir Winston Church. 

The quotation of the great man complete with his picture has been going the rounds in my social media circle, prompted by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s recent national budget statement. The statement itself is meant to once again “prove” Churchill wrong; just need to know how!

You tax the poor to bankroll the filthy rich ruling elite and their cronies. And to keep the poor quiet, you promise them that is will be their turn to stand in the bucket tomorrow and be uplifted into prosperity from the tax paid by the filthy rich ruling elite. Zimbabwe has been doing this for decades now! 

Winston Churchill a democrat who was democratically accountable to the British people and so was compelled to speak truthfully. Mnangagwa, just like Mugabe before him, and his cronies are not democrats, he is not democratically accountable to the people – as he has bluntly demonstrated in the August elections. He can and is taxing the poor to bankroll the prosperity of the filthy rich ruling elite. The poor are being reassured that tomorrow it will be their turn to be prosperous as the nation attains its goal of upper middle income by 2030, vision 2030. 

The nation has been chasing this mass prosperity mirage since 1980 when the nation attained her independence; Mugabe never tired of promising the masses “gutsa ruzhinji”. Even when it was clear the masses were getting poorer and poorer, there was mass poverty; the regime never stopped playing  the gutsa ruzhinji drums. 

Gutsa ruzhinji! Gutsa ruzhinji! the drums played day and night! Heard the drums first thing in the morning and last thing at night. One even heard the drums deep in their sleep.

When Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe in 2017 he announce that “Zimbabwe is open for business!” as the vehicle to finally deliver the elusive mass prosperity. However when he failed to deliver on his promise to stamp out corruption and to hold free and fair elections in 2018; he confirmed that Zimbabwe was still a pariah state. He confirmed that Zimbabwe was NOT open for business because the coup had changed nothing. 

So the much hoped for flood of foreign and local investment in response to his “Zimbabwe is open for business!” mantra never materialise. Investors are shrewd lot they know it is near impossible to do business in a pariah state and so stayed away. 

After three years of waiting for the flood of investors, the penny finally dropped, Mnangagwa finally forced to accept that “Zimbabwe is open for business!” was dead in the water. He changed tactic he focused on local investors. And so “Nyika inovakwa nevenevayo!” was born. But as with any other public pronouncements, the devil was in the detail.

It is one thing to claim Zimbabweans will be build the country (it should be rebuilt since it was Zanu PF who destroyed the country’s economy). Who were those Zimbabweans who would build the nation?

Many Zimbabweans have left the country as economic and/or political refugees in the last 20 to 30 years and most of them are highly qualified. Zanu PF government’s own man-power assessment has revealed that the country had up to 80% man power shortage in such key areas as agriculture, engineering, education, health, etc. And the few professional still in the country are poor, the decades of gross mismanagement, rampant corruption and hyper inflation have left most people poor.

The only areas areas with legions of manpower were politics, law and religion. It is often said that if you throw a stone into a crowd in Zimbabwe, you will probably hit a PhD graduate, a lawyer, a politician or a pastor – sometimes all four in one! They are not exactly the building brigade, are they!

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has kept up the Zanu PF tradition of finding new ways to squeeze more money from the poor. One of the very subtle ways to do this this year was by introducing the so-call mansion tax. Anyone whose home is worth US$ 100 000 or more will pay 1% of the value of the property tax per year. Many people heaved a sigh of relief; they think they escaped the dragnet.  

The mansion tax is a very slippery slope. The slide-rule will swiftly move to lower the US$100 000 thrash hold and to widen what other assets can be included in the mansion for tax purposes. In short, many living is in mud-huts will soon find themselves paying mason tax!

The poor mud-hovel are upgraded to mansion for tax purposes. Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s ruling elite and their cronies who are filthy rich, the more ostentatious given the grinding poverty of the majority, are granted all manner of tax breaks. We heavily tax the poor to spare the rich!