MWENEZI – Mwenezi Rural District Council (RDC), one of the poorest in the country has reached a dead end as Billy Rautenbech one of Zimbabwe’s richest businessmen in the country allegedly continues to refuse to pay unit tax as pegged by the local authority.
The local authority set unit tax for Billy’s massive 229 193,17hectare Ranch run by Zimbabwe Bio-Energy at US$0,50 per hectare per year two years ago but he is setting his own rate at US$0,10 which is what he is adamantly paying to council. Numerous engagements with Billy have yielded nothing.
A full council meeting held at Neshuro onMarch 31, 2021 says that as a result Billy now owes Mwenezi RDC US$183 354,54 in unpaid unit tax. Council has lost clue on how to recover the money or to effect the 50c rate that is in their resolutions. Initially council was charging US$1 per hectare.
The intervention of President Mnangagwa through the Minister of State for Masvingo, Ezra Chadzamira has not helped. President Mnangagwa ordered Chadzamira to resolve the matter and many other grievances raised by villagers who alleged that ZBE is a bad corporate neighbour. They also alleged that he was not doing any projects to develop communities in his area.
Mwenezi RDC Chief Executive Officer Albert Chivanga said council is engaing ZBE to discuss its adopted resolution.
ZBE general manager Derek Elliot said they resolved theirt differences with Mwenezi RDC. He however, said he was not aware of council’s resolution tom increase tax since he was not in Mwenezi.
Efforts to get a comment from Masvingo Minister of State and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira were futile as his cellphone went unanswered.
Councillors were told during the meeting that ZBE was billed US$114 596.59 each for 2019 and 2020 based on the 50c rate. However, Billy used the 10c per hectare rate and paid. Councilors were agitated that they are still owed US$183 354.54 in Unit for the two years.
The desperate local authority is even begging Rautenbech to pay his tax arrears through second hand equipment if he so wishes. They are asking him for second hand graders, trucks or fuel.