Zimbabwe Safari Operators Accuse ZTA of Gross Prejudice
Zimbabwe Safari Operators Accuse Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) of Gross Prejudice
Harare - Safari operators have accused the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) of "grossly prejudicing" them by demanding a levy on hunting trophies when the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority charges a similar tariff.
The dispute, which has spilled into the High Court, comes after the ZTA in 2008 demanded payment of a two percent levy on hunting trophies by all safari operators.
In terms of the Tourism Act, a two percent daily rate is charged on all services provided by safari operators and must be remitted to the ZTA.
The Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, an umbrella body of safari operators from across the country, is resisting the directive on the basis that operators are already remitting the same two percent levy to the Parks Authority.
The safari operators said they found it "strange" that the levy was being demanded now and yet in the 12 years since the Tourism Act became law they had never been required to pay it.
SOAZ, through their lawyer Advocate Happias Zhou instructed by Mr Joseph Mafusire of Scanlen and Holderness, has applied for a declaratory order at the High Court to stop the ZTA from receiving the money.
In their application, the safari operators requested the court to interpret the relevant Act to determine its meaning and clarify whether or not there was by law such a levy prescribed and payable to the ZTA.
Adv Zhou argued that trophies were not within the contemplation of "designate tourist facilities" for which the respective minister could in terms of the Act make regulations, including regulations to charge levies.
In Statutory Instrument 106 of 1996 the minister listed "designated tourists facilities" as accommodation, car hire, hunting tours, fishing, photographic tours, sight-seeing, canoeing, and horse riding among others.
In another Statutory Instrument a two percent levy was imposed on all such designated tourist facilities.
The list does not include a trophy.
The question the court has to deal with is whether a trophy is a "facility".
The safari operators are contending that a trophy cannot be a "facility" that is provided and that it is a "prize derived from enjoying the facility".
"A two percent levy is charged and remitted to ZTA, but this is only on the enjoyment of the facility, which is what the law requires, as opposed to the fruits of such enjoyment.
"The fact that trophy fees had not been collected for 12 years bears testimony to the understanding that it was not chargeable and remittable to ZTA, and that it was only demanded for now was quite curious," said Adv Zhou.
In response ZTA lawyer Advocate Obert Takaindisa was adamant that a trophy fell within the contemplation of designated services and therefore a two percent levy was to be charged and remitted to the tourism body.
Adv Takaindisa, argued that the levy was previously not collected due to an oversight on ZTA's part and which they now intended to rectify. He argued that ZTA, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, has a right to charge a levy payable to them as the tourism authority. "The first respondent is authorised to charge and collect from all designated tourist facility operators a levy of two percent on the total amount that the operators make in the conduct of their business as operators of designated facilities," he said. Adv Takaindisa argued that the amount payable to ZTA included the fee paid by tourists for the use of the hunting services provided on the operators' property. Presiding judge Justice Bharat Patel reserved judgment to consider submissions made by both parties' lawyers.