'Imports ban isolates Zim'

HARARE - Zimbabwe's partial ban of the import of some basic commodities has the potential of leaving the country isolated from other Southern African countries analysts have said.

There has been discord in President Robert Mugabe’s government over the ban — and the situation was worsened when Zimbabweans rejected the move by rioting in the border town of Beitbridge.

Analysts canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday said the ban will have a negative impact on Zimbabwe’s relations with other countries in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

Morgan Tsvangirai’s led MDC shadow Finance minister Tapiwa Mashakada said Mugabe’s government is violating the Sadc protocol on free trade.

“Zimbabwe is working against the rest of Sadc. They are violating Sadc protocol of free movements of goods, services, capital and labour,” Mashakada said.

He added, “the Sadc protocol want member states to reduce tariffs and non-tarriffs to allow free movement of goods. Zimbabwe has done a blockage of trade which can result in punitive measures from other Sadc countries.

“The current ban affects the goal of integration. We are also loosing revenue from customs. They should have talked to Sadc member countries before implementing their policy,” he added.

Government gazetted SI 64.2016, which removed goods that are locally available from Open General Import Licence exemption last month triggering mass protests either side of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

While the ban affects mostly South African businesses, who were making millions of rands from the trade daily.

Early this week, Industry and Commerce permanent secretary Abigail Shonhiwa contradicted government ministers over the issue saying the removal of selected goods from the open general import licence was only meant for commercial imports and not a blanket ban that would affect individuals.

Shonhiwa told delegates attending the Buy Zimbabwe’s Sixth Annual Buy Local Summit that there was no clarity on the ban hence the confusion which even led to riots in Beitbridge.

“The Statutory Instrument is for commercial imports. If you are importing in your individual capacity ...(it) should not affect you, but there was no clarity,” she said, adding that government will make a formal announcement soon.

Industry minister Mike Bimha last month evoked Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 to ban the importation of coffee creamers, white petroleum jellies and body creams.

Other basic products on the list include baked beans and potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza base, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese.

SI 64 also controls importation of second-hand tyres, urea and ammonium nitrate fertilisers, tile adhesives and tylon, shoe polish and synthetic hair products.

Secretary for finance and economic affairs in Tendai Biti’s People Democratic Party (PDP) Vince Musewe said the ban will strain Zimbabwe’s relationship with other Sadc countries especially South Africa.

“Sadc countries especially South Africa won’t be happy with the issue of imports restrictions.

“Yes, at some stage we will have to protect our market as a country. The idea that free markets are good for the developing economies is a myth.

“Developing countries need first to build the capacity to compete globally before flooding their local markets with imports which kill the emergence of strong local companies and job opportunities.

“However, now is not the time, particularly given the fact that we do not have own capital to invest in our productive base. In addition, a large number of traders will be out of income thereby increasing the already high levels of those without a stable income. That is a recipe for disaster.”

Musewe said the “ill-timed” import restrictions will have negative impact on small informal business traders.

“We are saying that these restrictions have a serious negative impact on income generating for those cross border traders who need to survive.

“It is estimated that as much as 200 000 people are currently cross border traders. They want to bring in decent quantities for resale in order to remain viable and these restrictions stifle that sector of the economy which is now the major source of income for many.

“The government is therefore taking away their bread and butter by restricting imports and requiring import licences. So saying that individuals can still bring in items for personal use does not address the problem created by these restrictions. Why is that so difficult to understand?

“In my opinion these restrictions are ill timed for now until such time as we have revived the economy, created better jobs for the people and revived our local capacity to produce. Then import restrictions can come in but through a clinical and phased approach backed by research and not sentiment.

According to Musewe the sudden restriction of imports overnight without adequate notice and planning always leads to the immediate emergence of a black market especially where local demand for a particular product is so high.

“Unplanned import restrictions can also create immediate shortages in the market and may result in increased prices of local goods. The other issue is the loss of goods that are in transit. These should be allowed to come in at the conditions that existed when they were purchased.

“There are also local industries where we have high barriers of entry and monopolies and banning imports to compete with their products in the market will lead to them having unfair monopoly advantage which they naturally use to increase prices and therefore profits.”

Comments (5)

Why is this called a Statutory Instrument? Is it not a ZANU PF Statutory Weapon to advance Mugabe & Co's desire to starve innocent hardworking rank and file Zimbabweans? Mugabe and his equally sadistic cabinet and hangers-on must GO before 31 Dec 2016. Taneta since ESAP in the early 1990s.

Tapiwa Mapere - 10 July 2016

Why is this called a Statutory Instrument? Is it not a ZANU PF Statutory Weapon to advance Mugabe & Co's desire to starve innocent hardworking rank and file Zimbabweans? Mugabe and his equally sadistic cabinet and hangers-on must GO before 31 Dec 2016. Taneta since ESAP in the early 1990s.

Tapiwa Mapere - 10 July 2016

why do we need to close the gates whilst we have nothing in our stores. we need to make sure that we have got enough for our people, we can be self reliant before imposing such a so called policy. it does not make any sense to ban imports at this point whereby we are all relying on imports. it actually give me a doubt on the understanding of the state of the economy by our leaders....how dare can you just wake up in the morning and impose anything with out considering the plight of the citizens.

benard musukutwa - 24 August 2016

.

norman pfende - 9 May 2017

aaaah yet local companies are struggling to meet the domestic supply of goods

norman pfende - 9 May 2017

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