Headman causes storm over cattle tax fines

HARARE - A storm is brewing in Mashonaland East’s Chikomba District where farmers and villagers accuse a local headman of milking them through unjustifiable cattle fines.

Villagers say headman Oscar Munengwa Ranga under chief Neshangwe is forcing them to pay $5 per family for evading cattle tax yet police are also collecting $10 for the same tax evasion offence.

Farmers are supposed to pay a cattle levy of $1 per cow every year to the veterinary department but many of them have been unable to pay for years owing to a punishing economic downturn.

They are now being forced to pay the fines to the headman and police.

Ranga confirmed that he fined several villagers but defended his actions saying it was his responsibility to bring offenders to book.

“People have been evading livestock tax for some time, cheating on the number of livestock they own. So it is my duty to correct that,” he told the Daily News.

“I however, believe those I charge should not be fined again by the police, but pay up at the veterinary office,” said Ranga.

However, officer commanding Chikomba District Lameck Tsoka accused Ranga of acting outside the law.

Tsoka, a police chief superintendent, said only the police force and relevant government departments have the mandate to punish defaulters.

“We are having problems with traditional leaders who do not understand their roles in terms of the law, especially those below the level of chiefs. They end up acting outside the law as in this case because they are not supposed to be charging anyone as it is only the police that has the mandate to make defaulters pay fines,” said Tsoka.

Villagers are seething with anger over what they described as daylight robbery.

Norman Marufu, of Mutomba village, told the Daily News at the weekend that despite the fact that Ranga had received cash from over 100 families in the area as fines, police were still confiscating stock cards.

“The chief is asking us to pay fines yet the police are doing the same. We wonder whether government is benefitting because we are never given receipts for the fines by the chief yet the police fines are receipted,” said Marufu.

Some villagers are now openly defying Ranga, opting to pay at the police station. - Mugove Tafirenyika

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