Mnangagwa steps into Rautenbach, Mwenezi tax wrangle

Billy Rautenbach

MASVINGO – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has instructed the Minister of State for Masvingo Ezra Chadzamira to meet business tycoon Billy Rautenbach and resolve a $1.9m tax dispute raging between Rautenbach and Mwenezi Rural District Council (RDC).

Rautenbach who is rated as one of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest businessmen with a fortune estimated at US$568 million is paying 10c only as unit tax per hectare to Mwenezi RDC for the 229 000 hectare multi-million dollar business that he runs at Nuanetsi, one of the biggest ranches in Zimbabwe.

Council pegged Rautenbach’s unit tax at $1 per hectare and his company, Zimbabwe Bio Energy (ZBE) has ignored that tax obligation since 2009.

As a result of the dispute, Rautenbach is paying $22 900 unit tax per year instead of $229 000.

Nuanetsi Ranch has over 40 000 cattle, 150 000 crocodiles and Rautenbach operates a big safari with all types of wild animals where tourists from the USA and Europe come to view and hunt game.

Chadzamira confirmed to The Mirror that he would be meeting Rautenbach together with officials and councilors from Mwenezi RDC on Thursday (today) and the meeting will take place at the council offices.
Efforts to get a comment from Rautenbech were fruitless and questions sent to his office on email were not answered until the time of going to Press.

A 2017 audit directed council to deal with the tax issue.

“I have instructed Mr Fungai Mbetsa (the Provincial Administrator) to arrange a meeting next week where we will meet Rautenbach and tell him Government position on his operations. I can’t tell you what we are going to discuss with him at the moment”, said Chadzamira.

Mwenezi CEO Abert Chivanga told The Mirror that ZBE had since 2009 been paying 10c unit tax to Mwenezi instead of $1 per hectare and as a result there are arrears of over $1 854 900. He said the company pegged its own unit tax and started paying what it pegged.

“ZBE should pay Mwenezi RDC $229 000 per year but they have only been paying a paltry $22 900 which they have pegged without the RDC’s approval,” said Chivanga.

Chivanga said the local authority needed that money to balance its books since the funds have been budgeted for. He said he wrote a letter to Rautenbach last week on the issue which he personally handed over.

Chadzamira castigated some white owned companies in the area during a Zanu PF rally in Mwenezi in February and criticized the manner in which they were conducting their businesses. In particular he said he was not happy with the way locals were treated.

“We have some whites who have wildlife conservancies. They are enjoying selling trophies outside and slaughtering the wildlife for butcheries without doing corporate social responsibility programmes. They actually ill-treat the neighbouring communities like in Chingwizi where they established boom gates to give a curfew and fenced-off water sources and grazing lands for the villagers. He who does not respect people, has no place in the new dispensation,” Chadzamira said then.

Mnangagwa weighed in on the same day and said, “There are some whites with big farms and yet deny people drinking water. Am told villagers get salty water and yet fresh water goes to animals. I say to Chadzamira, bring the culprit to me on Monday or Tuesday and repeat what you said while he is there and see how he leaves my office,” Mnangagwa said.

Source: Masvingo Mirror