Fungai Lupande Senior Court Reporter
Allied Timbers Zimbabwe has approached the High Court seeking an order to stop Mutasa Rural District Council from collecting levies on forest land they are operating on behalf of the Forestry Commission.
Allied Timbers says the local authority has been raising and collecting levies for the 114, 654 hectares of forest land leased to them by the Forestry Commission.
The land occupied by Allied Timbers is State land and is administered by the Forestry Commission and is not rural land envisaged under the RDC Act, they said.
In their application for a declaratur, Allied Timbers says they were assigned by the Forestry Commission the powers to operate the forest land and forest estate.
“The land being administered by the applicant is specially gazetted in terms of the Forest Act as State land constituting of forest estate or forest land which is owned by the Forestry Commission,” reads the application.
“Respondent administers rural land especially defined under the provisions of the Rural District Councils Act (Chapter 29:13).
“In terms of the RDC Act, the respondent can charge and collect land development levies from owners or occupiers of rural land, but not from owners of any other land.”
Section 96 of the RDC Act provides for categories of persons or entities that are liable to land development levy.
They added that Allied Timbers is not an owner as defined in the RDC Act and not liable for levy.
“Forestry Commission, as represented by applicant, is not an owner in terms of the definition in the RDC Act. It is further not a licensed business in terms of the same,” read the papers.
“It is not liable to levying in terms of any categories of persons or entities that are described in Section 96 of the RDC Act.”
“The respondent has been raising and collecting levies from Allied Timbers, unjustly enriched from its conduct,” reads the application.
Allied Timber is seeking a declaration that it is unlawful for the respondent to levy and collect any land development levies over the land on which they carry out operations.
Allied Timbers predominantly operates large forest plantations and forest estates in Manicaland Province and specialises in commercial timber production from Eucalyptus trees and pine trees.