Solwezi council, traders differ

Confusion has ensued between Solwezi Municipal council and traders in the district over business levies and licences.

Solwezi District Business Association (SODBA) has accused the municipality of charging exorbitant fees on shop owners in the district arguing that the charges by the local authority was not what was contained in the Government Gazette of the Statutory Instrument (SI) number 20 of 2012.

According to the association, the SI of the Local Government Act on business levies had not been amended since it was issued on 30th March 2012.

“The circular serves to inform you all that SI number 70 of 2011(the local government business levy regulations of 2011 has since been amended with effect from 30th March 2012.

“In this regard a new SI on local government business levy number 20 of 2012 has since been issued effective 30th march 2012.

“I therefore, direct all councils to adhere to the fees structure as provided for in the two (2) categories namely; micro or small business enterprises and multi-national companies and businesses. In view of the foregoing, there should be no extra charges levelled against the businesses in respect of fire, health and other inspection fees as regards to the above. It is not a licence but a levy to be paid across the counter at the treasury unit, the statutory instrument read in part.

And in a letter number MLGH/101/21/11 dated 16th April 2012 by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, directed all town clerks, council secretaries of City, Municipal and district councils to adhere to the provisions of the amended SI number 20 of 2012.

But Solwezi Municipal Council acting Town Clerk Justin Mbashila told the Daily Nation that the council was a legal body and whatever they did was guided by law and ministerial directives.

“We are guided by SI’s and in this particular case we already have an existing SI which classifies the fees paid by every business in the district. The contention in the past with the association is that they have wanted to pay a uniform business fee which is contrary to the existing SI that guides the issuance of business permits,” Mr Mbashila said.

He said the SI provided categories for various types of businesses.

Meanwhile, the association has maintained that its members will not be subjected to exorbitant fees by the local authority.

Association chairperson Allan Kabwata said the local authority was just an agent of Government and it should be following Government directives.

“What makes us wonder is that Solwezi Municipal Council has the highest business fees in the country; you cannot even compare it to Lusaka City Council, why should it be so?” Mr Kabwata wondered.