Bulawayo mayor, David Coltart, has expressed concerns that the proposed Wealth Tax by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube will encroach upon local councils’ authority to levy rates against property owners within their respective cities.

Cllr Coltart contends that this tax represents yet another attempt by the central government to siphon off funds from local authorities, returning only a fraction of the revenue generated. This move, he asserts, will further strain the already limited financial resources of Bulawayo City Council (BCC).

During the presentation of the national budget on Thursday, Prof Ncube proposed the introduction of a Wealth Tax, levied at a rate of 1% on the market value of residential properties with a minimum value of US$100,000.

“My primary concern with Professor Ncube’s proposed new property tax is that it infringes upon Local Councils’ right to levy rates against property owners within Cities. While the tax is problematic in principle, it is exacerbated by the fact that the revenue will be directed to central government with no guarantee of a fair return,” Cllr Coltart stated via his X account.

“Bulawayo has endured significant financial strain since car license fees were redirected to the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) instead of BCC. Similarly, despite constructing five dams using ratepayers’ money, the city is now compelled to purchase water stored in those dams from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa). The reality is that we receive a fraction of the funds remitted to Zinara, which adversely impacts our ability to maintain roads. The same holds true for Zinwa. The City could have constructed additional dams if it had retained control of the funds paid to Zinwa,” Cllr Coltart elaborated.

Cllr Coltart expressed apprehension that, given the government’s track record, the local authority is unlikely to receive a fair share of the revenue collected from the Wealth Tax.

“Now the government seeks to further deplete our resources by levying a tax based on the value of houses in Bulawayo. We have no assurance that this money will be returned to Bulawayo – indeed, history indicates that a fair redistribution is improbable,” he asserted.

“In light of these concerns, this new tax is utterly unacceptable. If such a tax is to be imposed, it must be directly remitted to local City and Town Councils, granting them the authority to determine its allocation. Adherence to the principle of devolution necessitates empowering local authorities with the financial autonomy to develop the Cities/Towns under their jurisdiction,” Cllr Coltart concluded.