'Imports ban created opportunities'

HARARE - Zimbabwe's imports ban has created opportunities for the local manufacturing industries to boost their production capacity, a consumer pressure group has said.

This was after the government in June imposed an imports ban Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 (SI64) on a number of basic goods, the majority of which pass through South Africa. At the time, industry officials warned that the ban would fuel smuggling.

However, Buy Zimbabwe feels that the imports ban will see industry — currently operating at 34,3 manufacturing capacity — up their game and meet the rising demand created by the SI.

“Statistics from Zimstat show that over 40 percent of imports into Zimbabwe are mainly consumer goods which are not productive in nature,” the pressure group said.

“The introduction of the SI64 has created opportunities in which manufactures and retailers need to take advantage of in order to restore the traditional economic system, where commerce act to support the industry in a system of interrelated and interdependent elements as partners in business,” Buy Zimbabwe added.

Market watchers, however, said the imports ban was President Robert Mugabe’s desperate attempt to alleviate the economic crisis in the country, which imports not less than 75 percent of all its industrial, manufacturing, agricultural and food requirements.

Most Zimbabweans earn a living from the informal sector, as the country battles with unemployment rates higher than 80 percent.

In June, the country added more products to its list of around 100 goods prohibited from entering the country — to promote and protect local industries.

These include: bottled water, cereals, salad cream, baked beans, potato crisps, peanut butter, jams, canned fruits, dairy products (salad cream, coffee creamers, yogurts), cigarettes, clothing, cooking oil, coffee creamers, pizza base, yogurts, mayonnaise, petroleum jellies, toothpaste, detergents and body creams.

Building materials (such as wheelbarrows, steel products and structures, rods, tubes, corrugated steel roofing sheets and plastic tubes) have also been added to the long list of restricted goods, which also includes furniture (beds, wardrobes), fabrics of cotton, second hand tyres, shoe polish and synthetic hair products.

The ban sparked violent demonstrations at border crossings and in Zimbabwe’s main cities, and in August, neighbouring South Africa urged the authorities to either revoke or renegotiate the ban on a number of goods from South Africa, or face consequences.

Industry minister Mike Bimha, who has previously blamed the smuggling of these goods on rampant corruption at the country’s borders, recently claimed transit truckers were the biggest culprits responsible for significant volumes of smuggled goods entering Zimbabwe.

“We are highly concerned with reports that goods have been filtering in the country despite the import ban we put,” he said.

“It can only mean one thing, our borders are porous and we need to do something as soon as possible to put an end to this. As government we came up with the SI to protect local industries and local products, but there has been rampant smuggling of the same products that we put on restriction list, into the country which leaves a lot to be desired,” Bimha added.

According to Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association secretary-general Augustine Tawanda’s

assessment, truck drivers smuggle goods by pretending that their cargo is meant for other destinations other than Zimbabwe when they cross border posts.

According to the government, these smuggled goods are cheaper than those produced locally, and flows cost the country $1 billion in 2015.

“We have discovered that much of the smuggling is done through transit cargo, where people tell us, for example, that a consignment is meant for Democratic Republic Congo when in fact whatever they are carrying is really meant for Zimbabwe,” Bimha said.

The government has for years tried to put in place stringent regulations in order to control the importation of goods that are manufactured locally.

In 2012, the State banned the importation of second-hand underwear claiming they were a health hazard and had killed local industry.

In an effort to find a solution to those challenges, Buy Zimbabwe will on Wednesday host the fourth edition of the Retailers and Suppliers Conference and Expo in Harare.

Comments (1)

Lying who is benefitting from the SI64

leonard - 25 October 2016

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