Mugabe acts tough on imports ban

HARARE - Zimbabwe has defended its controversial imports ban which it says will bring stability to its distressed manufacturing industries despite causing a rift with South Africa (SA).

The imports ban, invoked through Statutory Instrument (SI64) in June by government, is a subject of negotiations with South Africa whose economy has been seriously hurt by the restrictions which Zimbabwe’s neighbour says violate regional trade protocols.

But addressing Zanu PF supporters who were commemorating Heroes Day at the National Heroes Acre, yesterday, President Robert Mugabe said the ban was necessary to protect local factories.

“We recently gazetted Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which seeks to manage the importation of certain products, as a way of supporting and resuscitating local industry,” Mugabe told supporters.

Mugabe said his government will not be cowed into lifting the ban as it was implemented to protect “local farmers” whose produce was being denied access in local shops due to the depreciation of the South African rand against the US dollar.

“Zvingachipa hazvo hongu…ko vedu vemuno votokanda pasi havo mapadza? Kuvabatsira ikoko? Hapana nyika pasi pano isingazvidzivirire. (SA commodities might be cheaper yes, but should our farmers stop producing? Is that helpful? There is no nation on earth that doesn’t protect itself).”

He said that the country’s manufacturing capacity, currently around 34 percent, was expected to remain stable due to the latest move.

The government imposed a ban on the importation of a number of basic consumer goods in June, saying this was an endeavour to not only reduce imports in the wake of worsening cash shortages, but also to stimulate local industry.

But the decision backfired spectacularly when deadly riots paralysed operations at Beitbridge Border Post early in July, with protesters burning a Zimra warehouse in the process.

Under SI64 of 2016, the government banned the importation of coffee creamers, Camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams, baked beans, potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jam, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza bases, yoghurts, flavoured milk, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese, among other products.

A trade war is looming between the two countries after South Africa was miffed by Zimbabwe’s imports ban on basic consumer goods which has hit its economy hard.

Last week, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha had an uncomfortable meeting with his SA counterpart —Rob Davies — whose government has given Zimbabwe a two-week ultimatum to resolve the contentious issue.

Speaking to SA media, Davies said the two countries had to resolve their trade impasse before a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) meeting of trade ministers that is scheduled to take place in Botswana later this month.

“On August 24, there should be an agreement reached where there are a series of surcharges and additional tariff increases that were applicable to the export interests of SA,” a diplomatic Davies said, adding that Zimbabwe should have followed proper Sadc protocols before effecting the ban.

Under Sadc protocols, which regulate inter-State trade, a member country is allowed to adopt protection measures provided it demonstrates that its industries are under distress.

“We believe that the coherence of the integrity of the regional trade agreement should be followed procedurally,” Davies said further, also noting that SA has identified 112 out of 1 000 tariff lines that it did not believe Zimbabwe had the capacity to produce, and which it had asked its neighbour to rethink about and provide feedback.

Davies said Zimbabwe should have followed a process under the Sadc protocol that sets out procedural requirements before cutting trade ties.

“Should there be any variation in the application under those commitments, there should be an application to the council of the ministers of Trade,” he said.

SA is Zimbabwe’s biggest trade partner within Sadc and exports manufactured and agro-processed goods to its northern neighbour.

Should Zimbabwe do this, it would be able to work out a win-win solution with SA.

Comments (14)

No one will cow this dictator but shortages and chaos will cow him.

Ziziharinanyanga - 9 August 2016

It should not be necessary to legislate and barn imports to protect local industries. It should be an issue of competition, with local industries producing good quality goods at reasonable prices below those of imported goods, and attract customers to prefer their products against imports. Their failure to play their part should not be a reason to punish the consumers by forcing them to buy their sub standard and over priced goods. One local company, Bata, is trying to take the Chinese cheap and inferior products head on. Let the other companies follow suite. The government must stop this nonsense of barning imports. The local companies must do their part properly.

MR COOPER - 9 August 2016

There are no totally deregulated markets anywhere. We would not have tariffs anywhere right. Importing tomatoes, chicken , vaseline that is dumb

jason mpala - 9 August 2016

There are no totally deregulated markets anywhere. We would not have tariffs anywhere right. Importing tomatoes, chicken , vaseline that is dumb

jason mpala - 9 August 2016

I thought there is a difference between acting tough and acting foolish or stupid. Its more of a gimmick to extort financial credit lines from trading partners. We have nothing production wise to talk about. Just make the conditions right for investors and business community and see the imports dying a natural cause.

X-MAN IV - 9 August 2016

Sometimes i ask myself, what were all those degrees for, Mr president. Economies are driven by a demand / supply scenario, something which you will take forever to understand. Your policies are always a disaster...only through miracles can they bear fruit. You are such a waste of brains and education, Mr President. Remember how you tried to command the economy during the GIDEON GONO era, slashing prices and even printing more money? Obviously, as always, you expected miracles.....the same way you did when you took off your shoes to catch a glimpse of diesel "oozing out of rocks". The latest is the imports ban and still you expect things to get better by some chance. You are the most bizzare president the world has ever seen. Im sorry to say this....SEKURU MAKADZIDZA ZVENYU ASI MURI DOFO.

Sandile - 9 August 2016

Please can we look around where we stay and count old people more than 92 yrs old....who are still walking without a walking stick.... Tategu.,..

Justice - 9 August 2016

This old man thinks we are fools.All along he has been telling us that the economy is ok and everything is fine.Now he tells us that the instrument has been put in place to resuscitate the ailing industries.Why should you resuscitate what is functional?It is this level of arrogance that has gone on for too long and the too many lies we have been told which has destroyed this nation.

Tahir Iqbal - 10 August 2016

The import or restriction ban should not only apply to individuals, but no one whether with permit or no permit should ever import that product. However what makes this import ban illegal and oppressive is that in as much as it should assist industries to be self sufficient the industries are importing and sell the products at extortion price, That make it unfair since it will not create the jobs that it is intended to create.

amina - 10 August 2016

I never thought our South African counterparts needed business from us given the attitude of their immigration authorities towards Zimbabweans travelling to that country on business. What they need to do is to address these soft issues before inviting senior officials to their round tables for discussions because deregulation of trade again before giving some public relations lessons to SA Immigration officials may not solve any problems. They should treat Zimbabweans with dignity and not that bully boy approach as if we go there as beggars. When we go there we will be carrying US dollars not depreciating Rand, this should be known.

Trader - 10 August 2016

@Tador.I second yu on that.yes respect to us is overdue frm SA

viola gwena - 10 August 2016

Zimbabweans are tired of these non ending political nonsense.We want bread on our tablels fullstop.Playing games around hungry lions is rather disastrous.

Ephraim Madenya - 11 August 2016

@Tador. Respect is a two way street. How do you expect them to respect us and treat us well when we treat ourselves worse on the Zimbabwean side of Beitbridge?

Panyanga - 11 August 2016

Ey is this about protecting local business?..

cvx - 12 August 2016

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