'Imports ban will fuel smuggling'

HARARE - Industry has said government’s recent import restrictions are going to fuel more smuggling into the country, amid indications that Zimbabwe lost an estimated $1 billion to the scourge last year.

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) executive director, Rosemary Siyachitema and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) chief executive, Christopher Mugaga, recently said the implementation of Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016 was going to increase smuggling incidents and increase cash leakages.

The two executives told a Confederation of Retailers Zimbabwe meeting in the capital last week that government needed to strictly monitor the country’s various points of entry, to curb smuggling as most of the products restricted under the SI were basic goods.

“What concerns us as a consumer-representing body is the possibility of increased smuggling trafficking. As everyone knows, imports are relatively cheaper than local goods, however, some of the ways the goods are transported may be harmful to the consumer,” Siyachitema said.

Mugaga — who revealed that Zimbabwe had lost an estimated $1 billion last year to smuggling — said the Industry ministry needed to work with customs to ensure the leakages were plugged.

“…especially in view of these new measures, smuggling is going to increase and this will translate to revenue loss for the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra). So government needs to ensure that the points of entry are monitored,” Mugaga said.

Industry minister Mike Bimha said his ministry had formed a task force to deal with the matter, adding that its members had already been recruited.

“We had envisioned this problem, so to deal with smuggling we have formed a task force to monitor the borders as well as conduct patrols close to the points of entry to look for anything suspicious and deal with it,” Bimha said, at the same event.

However, local reports indicate that smuggling traffic has increased since Bimha put in place the SI.

Despite the embargo which blocks the entry of various basic goods, the same products are now being sold from car boots and along street pavements in the country’s various towns.

Smugglers from South Africa — Zimbabwe’s biggest regional trading partner — have access to an estimated 200 illegal entry points along the Limpopo River with alcoholic beverages, cooking oil and potato chips among the items allegedly being illegally brought into the country.

Reports also show that smuggling syndicates have been formed with goods being transported into the country either through corrupt customs officials or illegal entry points.

Zimbabwe attracts goods from all over the world due to the availability of a strong United States Dollar (US$).

Conversely, local products are expensive due to high production costs as most of the costs are pegged in the US$.

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