Columnists

ZRA projects can stimulate growth

BENEDICT Tembo.

Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
SESHEKE district, Western Province is one of Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA)’s cash cows.
ZRA mints millions of Kwacha in various taxes through the Katima Mulilo border post. Yet, Sesheke’s critical underdevelopment does not depict it being a border town and one of ZRA’s vintage points.
“In 2017, Katima Mulilo contributed a fair share of revenue to the government coffers. In terms of ranking of station contribution to revenue collection, Katima Mulilo was the seventh highest after Chirundu, Ndola, Nakonde, Livingstone, Kazungula and Kenneth Kaunda International Airport,” ZRA corporate communications manager Topsy Sikalinda said.
Not that the ZRA can change the sandy terrain of this district, which shares the border with Katima Mulilo town in Namibia, but the tax authorities could undertake some corporate social responsibility projects that could transform the lives of residents there.
For instance, Mulilambango ward in the central business district is in dire need of water as some residents are forced to draw water from the Zambezi River.
Residents need one or two boreholes to save them from being attacked by crocodiles in the Zambezi River.
Mulilambango’s clinic is also due for upgrade as well as Katima Mulilo Basic School.
Upgrading the clinic will enhance healthcare delivery while the school will contribute to improved enrollment and high standards of learning by the pupils.
These are some of the humble developmental needs towards which ZRA commissioner general Kingsley Chanda could direct corporate social responsibility resources so that people begin to appreciate the taxes collected from Katima Mulilo border post, currently the only border in Western Province.
Katima Mulilo is the main link on the western corridor, which connects to the United Kingdom, European Union and the United States of America via Walvis Bay in Namibia.
Exports that go through Katima Mulilo include mineral products such as copper cathodes, copper blisters, copper anodes, agricultural products such as maize bran, molasses and wood products such as flooring and roofing parquets, tables, chairs and decking products.
Imports that come through Katima Mulilo include grinding balls for mines, tyres for mining equipment, mining equipment, chemicals for mines, fish (mainly horse mackerel), salt, assorted liquor and used motor vehicles, mainly from the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Recently, Katima Mulilo residents saw the 42 fire-tenders pass through the district but none remained there.
Mr Sikalinda said all revenue collected by ZRA goes to government coffers.
“The government decides on the allocation of funds according to the national needs through the national budget,” Mr Sikalinda said.
Last year, ZRA donated a forfeited vehicle to its strategic partners, the Zambia Police Service in Katima Mulilo.
“On the basis of needs, we donate seized items like grocery, cooking oil, etc, to various groups around the country,” Mr Sikalinda said.
ZRA should know that Sesheke is one such needy district, which seeks the attention of the tax authorities.
ZRA should come up with a deliberate policy where a certain portion can be set aside for developing the communities from where it collects taxes.
This will be in recognition of the importance of areas such as Sesheke where sums of money are being collected and give back to those communities.
Such gestures may see communities in border towns rising to help ZRA in the challenges its officers face in revenue collections such as smuggling of alcoholic beverages, which is precipitated by lack of fencing at the border.
Residents in these areas may join hands by being whistleblowers against smugglers or indeed start volunteering to patrol areas used by smugglers at night.
ZRA may also work with sister agencies like the Road Development Agency in lobbying for the prioritisation of the reconstruction of Kazungula–Sesheke road, which is in a deplorable state.
ZRA acknowledges that the very poor state of the road between Kazungula and Sesheke is causing transporters to resort to using Kazungula Border Post via Goma Border Post (border between Namibia and Botswana).
Yes, ZRA can stimulate development in the areas it collects taxes.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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