Govt violates imports rules

HARARE - Government has started allowing imports of certain basic commodities that were previously covered under the Open General Import Licence (OGIL), even though it is still to gazette the amendments to Statutory Instrument (SI) 122 of 2017.

Following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told reporters that government had “with immediate effect” lifted import restrictions on a number of basic products “pending the return to normalcy of buying patterns by the public and adequate restocking by manufacturers.”

As of Friday last week, the minister of Industry and Commerce Mangaliso Ndlovu was yet to gazette the amendments to SI 122 of 2017 to give legal effect to the policy shift.

Reached for comment, Ndlovu admitted that amendments were still to be gazetted, saying these were now in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office.

While he was confident the changes were to be effected by end of day last Friday, this is still to be done.

But in a desperate bid to save the situation, the ministry of Industry made frantic efforts last week to ensure that shortages of basic goods do not get out of hand.

The Daily News has it on good authority that the permanent secretary in the ministry of Industry and Commerce Abigail Shonhiwa wrote to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
(Zimra) last week Friday, instructing the tax authority to disseminate information to all ports of entry about the goods that no longer require import permits.

“Also note that the ministry has since lodged the draft amendment instrument with the Attorney General’s Office for clearance before gazetting.

“We understand that some members of the public and corporates had already crossed the border to purchase some of the products that are now on OGIL. We are requesting Zimra to facilitate importers with passage while we wait for the gazetting,” reads the letter in part.

“Your usual cooperation is most appreciated,” Shonhiwa concluded in her letter, copied to Ndlovu and the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda.

Zimra commissioner-general Faith Mazani acknowledged receiving the letter and that they have started allowing the importation of the listed commodities duty free based on the minister’s letter even though the changes are still to be gazetted.

“For us, it’s an issue of suspending the import permit requirement on the said goods. So, we have suspended import permits in respect of the said goods. As Zimra, we are ready to assist everyone with their goods coming in subject to payment of duty or a rebate subject to prescribed conditions,” Mazani said.

Analysts told the Daily News yesterday that by opening the floodgates to imports before the gazetting of the amendments, government was in violation of the law.

The amendments are aimed at allowing individuals and companies to import basic commodities, which have not just become pricey but have also disappeared from the shelves of most retailers.

This followed the introduction of a punitive two percent tax on all electronic transactions by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.

The amendment allows companies and individuals with free funds to import commodities that include animal oils and fats, baked beans, body creams, bottled water, cement, cereals, cheese, coffee creamers, cooking oil, crude soyabean oil, fertiliser, finished steel roofing sheets, wheat flour and ice cream.

Comments (1)

That's where Daily News people miss the point! Who are you protecting? By the way, the government is the law - we do not have a coalition government, so everything will always sail smoothly in terms of harmonising regulations. The saboteurs have been hit hard here!

Mhofu Chaiyo - 29 October 2018

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