A boycott by traders protesting newly introduced taxes in Taita Taveta is threatening to plunge the coastal county into a revenue crisis.
The county government could soon be starved of revenue should traders at the major markets in Wundanyi, Voi, Taveta and Mwatate continue agitating against the new rates.
This comes after the county administration started implementing the Finance Act 2018 on Monday last week. On Tuesday this week, operations at the busy Taveta cross-border market ground to a halt as traders staged demonstrations.
It is the biggest fresh-produce market in the region, attracting traders from both Kenya and Tanzania.
They have threatened to go to court to challenge the new law, claiming they were not consulted. Market chairperson Wanjiku Mungai said the new rates will adversely affect their businesses.
“The margins are very high. We cannot afford to pay such huge amounts in taxes. Our businesses will collapse,” she said.
The new law raises taxes on commodities by more than 100 percent.
For instance, a bag of tomatoes, which previously attracted a Sh30 levy, will now be charged at Sh90. Similarly, a bag of potatoes will be charged at Sh70, up from Sh20.
“This is totally unacceptable. We will go to court to stop the county government from implementing this draconian law,” she said.
The traders also threatened to storm Governor Granton Samboja’s office in Wundanyi to seek an audience with him.
Market association chairperson Likwaro Leleshwa said the boycott would continue until all their grievances are addressed.
He accused the county government of increasing rates yet the markets are in poor condition.
“We had raised this issue with the former administration and they had promised to act. After the elections, however, all the plans were abandoned,” he said.
He said they had proposed that revenue generated at the sub-county level should be used solely to develop that area.
“Taveta sub-county raises the highest revenue in the county yet we don’t get the services we deserve,” he said.