Zim dithers on imports ban

HARARE - Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha says government is mulling removing some of the items that it included on the imports ban as it works to pacify local traders and affected companies.

This comes as a government committee working on the goods that South Africa wants exempted from the ban, is almost finished with its task, two weeks before Bimha meets his South African counterpart to present Zimbabwe’s position on the trade embargo.

“As we have said, SI 64 is time-bound. I also believe there are certain companies and products that should have been on that list and also there should be need to fine-tune in certain aspects because it is not a perfect lease,” Bimha told delegates at a Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) meeting in the capital, yesterday.

“And therefore this is not cast in stone; we need to continue reviewing it. We need to add some more products and remove other products, therefore, we cannot do it alone, we need your participation.”

The imports ban, invoked through Statutory Instrument (SI 64) in June by government, is a subject of negotiations with South Africa whose economy has been seriously hurt by the restrictions which the Zimbabwean neighbour says violate regional trade protocols.

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 SI 64 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.

At yesterday’s meeting, a local importer told delegates that he was in the process of retrenching half of his workforce as a result of the imports’ ban.

However, Bimha said distributing companies which had been affected by the piece of legislation could approach him with “suggestions to make the law better”.

“At the end of the day we want to improve production and create more jobs, so a situation that sees locals losing their jobs is not what we are aiming for,” he said.

Bimha said he did not understand why South African business people were demonstrating against the law, adding that on a government level, he was “on the same page” with his regional peers.

Comments (8)

Please minister do not protect local companies bcoz they produce sub standard goods and people DO not want to spent their monies on rubbish . leave things as they are no banning any SA product till our local companies learn to produce class products do you hear .

Diibulaanyika - 16 August 2016

The wholesale importer of foreign goods should reinvent his business and diversify into manufacture of some of the products. The job losses is structural unemployment and are compensated by employment in the manufacturing sector.

local-is-lekker - 17 August 2016

Its stupidity for Bimha not to see why import ban would cause SA companies and workers demonstrate. Demand of products increase supply and that means more employment of locals and foreign nationals. Hence this question coming from a minister of industry and commerce its shows great missmatch of skills and theory of basic economics, supply and demand, the inputs of production, labor, raw materials.

amina - 17 August 2016

Local industries can do themselves a favour if they embrace ISO standards and maintain them along with pricing that rooted in terra firma. I bought some sheets (local) and was disappointed that the sizes marked on the cover are bigger than the contents. There is no company address, email address or phone number. What is clear is the huge MADE IN ZIMBABWE font, that's all. I bought imported sheets and the situation is opposite to what I've described above. Where is SAZ? I would be happy to support local industry that upholds ethical ad quality standards. Mike Bimha is saying govt does not want to create unemployment but THATS WHAT THEY DO EVERYDAY!! with legislation that seems to be designed to ensure everything deteriorates.

Sagitarr - 17 August 2016

Minister,there is always a room for negotiations. This will affect a lot of companies, especcially the workforce. Some companies are now mulling retrenching workers and yet we have already suffered economiccally. Yes local companies must produce,but this is not the right time to do this. Our families will continue to suffer,because of these harphazard statutory instruments. First and foremost you should have consulted all stakeholders involved and then look for the way forward.

Joel Manyore - 17 August 2016

Next time government should consider the comsumers who are the general people before making laws that protect business community, A business person claims he or she can supply dovi for the whole country while he cant supply chitungwiza alone. Business should learn to compete globally not engaging government to kill its general populace

musaigwa - 17 August 2016

No rational businessperson would say no to protection. What needed to have been done was for affected companies or sectors to present strong cases for protection, backed by import data and other factors such as subsidies, otherwise simply inviting companies to submit products for protection is not good enough. What will the Minister do if the companies are still not competitive after 3 years (which is highly likely to be the case)?

bhora pasi - 17 August 2016

When looking at the list of restricted imports perhaps SI 64 should be renamed the Save Gushungo Empowering Act 2016.

John M - 18 August 2016

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