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EZULWINI - Members of the 12th Parliament have come down hard on the Eswatini Revenue Service (ERS) for taxing retired pensioners.

This happened yesterday during the last day of the induction for the Members of Parliament (MPs) and senators who form part of the 12th Parliament.
The ERS had joined yesterday’s session to educate the new legislators on how it conducts its operations and the benefits of complying with the tax laws. Despite that the ERS Commissioner General (CG), Brightwell Nkambule had explained that the parastatal was simply an agent of government and was not responsible for the laws that governed the amount of taxes, the legislators demanded answers.

The CG informed the parliamentarians that it was the Ministry of Finance that tabled requests for tax fees and bills, after which Parliament approved and then the ERS implemented and educated its clients. First to speak on the issue was Senator Stukie Motsa, who asked to know if it was not possible for the ERS to consider not taxing the monthly pay for pensioners.


Motsa’s argument was that pensioners were people who had worked for years and been taxed accordingly. Also raising the issue was Ludzeludze MP Nomkhosi Masuku, who made an example of an individual who works for 42 years where they are taxed in accordance with the stipulated laws.
Masuku asked why that person went on to be taxed even when they had retired. “Why should the senior citizens be made to pay tax forever?” she asked.

Motshane MP Wilton Nkambule submitted that part of the revenue generated through taxes was used on infrastructure development projects as demonstrated during the session yesterday. He said infrastructure development had become a success because of emaSwati who had paid taxes for years while they were still employed. He asked why, therefore, they were taxed upon retirement as they had already made a contribution and invested towards the development of the country. Providing response on behalf of the ERS was Bhekisisa Sukati, who said whenever a person earned a monthly salary, about five per cent was not taxed.

The five per cent, Sukati said, was taxed once the person reached 60 years and retired. Still on senior citizens, the legislators also asked to know why they did not get a tax exemption when purchasing basic commodities. A response from the ERS was that government realised that certain food items and basic commodities were a necessity and decided that they should not be taxed.


The legislators also asked to know if anything was being done to introduce toll gates in the country. The argument by the legislators was that government would generate a lot of revenue from toll gates as was the case in other countries. An example was given that in Mpumalanga, South Africa, there was a toll gate where motorists were charged about E600. On another note, the CG provided clarity regarding the closure of companies found to have not complied with the tax laws.

Nkambule said it was not true that the ERS forced such companies to close down.“Our mandate is that we collect tax from companies. We cannot fulfill such a mandate if we close down companies. Instead, we always encourage companies to engage us whenever they faced challenges,” he said.
Also, the CG pleaded with the legislators to play their part in educating the public about tax laws whenever they had the platform.

He said for the citizens of the country to understand taxation better, the legislators needed to speak about it at the various tinkhundla centres.
Other concerns raised by the legislators included that of not having ERS service centres in the rural areas. Ngudzeni MP Charles Ndlovu said it was disheartening that people had to travel long distances to get ERS services, yet government spoke about decentralisation now and again.

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: Exam questions
Should exam questions be in both English and siSwati?