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    Thursday, 21 March 2019

    Zimra public relations blitz, the way to go



    MATHEW TAKAONA

    MASVINGO- The approach all along has been to shake and make them quack in the boots, make their teeth gnash. This is the image that taxpayers in Zimbabwe have had of Zimra over the years.
    In Zimra, the business world saw a merciless corporate bully.
    It must therefore have been refreshing, when over the last two weeks newspaper audiences were inundated with full page adverts of interface with Zimra; friendly, informative and compelling messages on the importance of meeting one’s tax obligations.
    This is something that many have not known in their lifetime.
    There are messages in the adverts like, let’s create a brighter future for our children; when you pay your taxes they go a long way to providing healthcare, ensure education for all, develop infrastructure, protect the nation and create employment. Pay your part and let’s create it.
    The adverts have pictures of pupils learning in good schools and well maintained roads. Such appealing messages cannot escape a good eye.
    The message that many have known from Zimra is ‘pay up or we shut you down’.
    Many businesses that could still be here today closed shop in the last 10 years after getting shocking audits from Zimra. The period from 2009 saw Zimra’s clientele base shrinking so rapidly because of the detiorating economic situation that the tax collector had to squeeze out as much as possible from those few companies that remained.
    Companies were slapped with debts turnover and sometimes  the turnovers are far above their annual earnings. The faint-hearted closed shop and this worsened the unemployment situation in Zimbabwe. Others just left their current businesses and moved into new business areas. This left Zimra with millions of dollars worth of debts that only exist in the ledger books. These debts will never be paid and the companies are gone for good, they will never be there again
    Frustrated companies that had no other option limped on but totally dispirited. They scaled down on their operations and are working just to make enough to survive because their debts with Zimra are such that if they are to pay the full amounts they will work for Zimra all their life.
    Some NGOs working in the HIV and Aids areas closed shop after donors pulled out because their funds were garnished. The consequences to patients are obvious. Tens of workers also lost their jobs in such NGOS. Local and town council executives who met senior Government officials in Masvingo last week said Zimra has become their worst problem.
    This is why the public relations blitz by Zimra in the last few weeks is therefore a big relief.
    Zimra must talk to its publics, Zimra must engage its publics especially in a frail economy like this one otherwise it will defeat the same objectives that it wants to achieve.
    The blitz is an acknowledgement that failure to pay taxes by business is not always deliberate. There are reasons and there are many of them.
    There is lack of basic understanding of taxes especially in an economy like Zimbabwe which is dominated by small and informal companies. There is also little appreciation of taxe obligations  because there is little education particularly from Zimra. All Zimra publics have been hearing is pay up, if you don’t we have the means to bring you trouble.
    However, the blitz seems to be an appreciation of the fact that the most effective way of mobilising publics to a cause is not to coerce but to create an understanding; to internalise the message otherwise it will always be an unproductive cat and mouse game.
    Zimra must be encouraged to make such campaigns regular and combine them with door to door visits where their officers sit down with clients with an intention to solve problems and not to intimidate and strike fear in their publics.
    Zimra must not be at war with business otherwise the proverbial killing of the goose that lays the golden egg will stand true one day.
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