Concerns grow over Zim’s widening rich,poor divide
By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
HARARE-During the recent 3-day stayaway there was a widely circulated WhatsApp message, “Borrowdale is concerned about the ongoing protests in their neighbouring country, Zimbabwe.”
While this was a joke it is a true reflection of the widening gap between the rich and poor and this has seen a number of organisations teaming up to form the Fight Inequality Alliance which was convened by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) as a way of commemorating the Global Fight Inequality Week of Action.
The Fight Inequality Alliance, which is a global movement is inspired by people’s collective struggles to build a more equal, sustainable world.
In a statement read by ZIMCODD executive director Janet Zhou who was flanked by representatives of some of the organisations that make up the Fight Inequality Alliance, said poverty in the country is alarming but is not even.
“According to World Poverty Clock, close to five million people in Zimbabwe are living in extreme poverty constituting about 28% of the country’s population thereby undermining the country’s capacity to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to end poverty by 2030.
“Inequality is registering itself at provincial level as shown by statistics by Zimstats where Matebeleland North is the poorest province in the country followed by Masvingo and Matebeleland South,” said Zhou.
According to the alliance the 2 percent tax introduced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in his Transitional Stabilisation Programme bleeds the poor while it favours the elite.
“The 2% tax on all intermediated money transfers between $10.00 and a $10.000 flat tax for transactions above $500, 000 is very regressive because big sharks that deal with millions and billions of dollars will pay a flat fee that do not commensurate the wealth they have,” it bemoaned.
With the country’s economy being largely informal,Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Trust (VISET) director Samuel Wadzayi revealed that while there has been concern that most of the country ‘s hard cash is in the informal sector it is the Small Medium Enterprise run on behalf of the rich which could be holding on to the elusive US dollars while the rest especially street vendors are wallowing in poverty.
“While it is true that there is a lot of hard currency flowing in the informal sector it should be noted that most of these are SMEs which are run by fronts of the elite while the ordinary street vendor is struggling,” said Wadzayi.
He went on to say the sector is not entirely against paying taxes but would want to see the government using the taxes to improve infrastructure where vendors can sell their wares.
“Most of the times the informal sector is accused of not paying taxes but we are concerned with how tax collection can be centred on extortion rather than development.
“The sector is operating in open spaces so it will be prudent for the government to support the sector from the taxes by developing infrastructure and technology,” argued the VISET boss.
The Fight Inequality Alliance also notes the unequal access to health services which manifested during the doctors’ strike.
“Only the poor were hard hit by the recent nurses’ and doctors’ strike which according to the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association,Mpilo Hospital certified an average of four deaths per day during the strike.
“Furthermore, the partial privatisation of public hospitals makes the poor more vulnerable as patients are asked to pay for certain services provided by private players,” state the organisations.
Most government officials have been criticised for shunning local health institutions opting to go South Africa or overseas using taxpayers’ money.
Zimbabwe is reeling from a widening gap between the rich and the poor and is scoring a Gini Coeffiecient of 50 % , according to an anti-poverty organisation Oxfam. A Gini coefficient is a measure of the gap between the rich and the poor.