Zimbabwe leaders are from Mars!

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

I WAS touched by an impassioned plea by a fellow Zimbabwean.

He appeared on local television, imploring the government to remove VAT (value added tax) on rice.

His logic was that rice was a staple foodstuff for most ordinary citizens such that it should be treated the same as mealie meal, bread, milk, cooking oil, salt, and sugar.

These basic commodities recently received a waiver from a 15 percent VAT previously announced by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube in his 2024 National Budget Proposal.

What I found rather unfortunate about this entire affair was the insensitivity and heartlessness in the imposition of such a tax on basic commodities in the first place.

Everyone knows that nearly half the Zimbabwe population is living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$2 a day), whilst two-thirds of the workforce under the poverty datum line.

So, why on earth would the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration feel it alright introducing measures that moved basic commodities further out of the reach of the majority?

The fact that those in authority had to be pressured through public outrage and outcry to reverse these measures on some products is even more disturbing.

Here, we have a ruling elite filled with all manner of academics, carrying titles as Doctor and Professor So and So.

Yet, in all this, the government still could not foresee the suffering these taxes would add to an already impoverished nation.

Or, maybe they simply chose to ignore these obvious negative effects.

In fact, the passionate plea by the man I mentioned exposed just how detached those in power are from real life in Zimbabwe.

Do they not know how ordinary folk are surviving and what they eat?

What else can we say when those at the helm are not even aware that rice is a staple for most families in the country?

On which planet are these privileged few residing?

Are they from Mars?

What do they think their uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces are surviving on?

We all know that they (ruling elite) and their close families are hedged from the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans, as they benefit immensely from the looting and plundering of our national resources.

Nevertheless, it is hard for me to believe that every single relative of theirs is rolling in wealth – even those distant ones in the depths of rural Zimbabwe.

Do they never meet at family funerals or weddings – such that they would at least see and understand how the other half (for lack of a better word) exist?

It makes no sense at all that a government that is in touch with the common man, woman, and child would impose such taxes knowing fully well the added burden.

As much as it is commendable that the VAT on some products was subsequently removed – however, it still boggles the mind why this were ever imposed in the first place.

There is more.

Rice is not the only basic commodity that was not removed and still remains on the standard VAT rating.

There is meat, bath soap, laundry powder, and toothpaste.

For some strange reason, the Mnangagwa administration believes eating meat, bathing ourselves, wearing clean clothes, brushing our teeth, and, of course, having rice is a luxury!

It is not particularly surprising as this is the same president who, in January 2020, told a crowd complaining over the unaffordable price of meat to eat vegetables and potatoes!

This is how arrogant and uncaring this regime has become.

They really do not care about the ordinary people.

Yet, according to the 2023 rural ZIMVAC assessment results, approximately 26 percent of rural households will be cereal insecure this year.

This translates to approximately 2.7 million people who will require about 100,000 metric tons of cereal.

In the 2023 Global Hunger Index, Zimbabwe has a score of 28.0 – meaning a level of hunger that is serious.

What matters to the privileged few is making as much money from an already suffering and downtrodden population as they can.

One wonders where all that revenue is going?

Zimbabweans have historically been the most taxed in the region – with high income tax, VAT, IMTT, toll fees, you name it – yet there is absolutely nothing to show for it.

If anything, our public health and learning institutions lie in near ruin, roads in abysmal state, and approximately 3 million Zimbabweans teetering on the verge of starvation.

In spite of numerous mineral resources, Zimbabweans are still regarded as some of the poorest people in the world.

In all this, those in power live as if they are in Hollywood – flaunting their ill-gotten wealth for the poor to see.

Instead of all this tax revenue benefiting the ordinary citizens, it is likely lining the already overflowing pockets of the ruling elite.

As such, the rich will only get richer whilst the poor get poorer.

This shows that those in power in Zimbabwe are far detached from the plight of the ordinary citizenry.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

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