Former Vice President and now Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) leader, Joice Mujuru, has filed a lawsuit against President Robert Mugabe and his administration over the government’s controversial import ban on basic consumer goods.
This comes as it emerged last week that South Africa is seething over the ban which Pretoria says is unfair and transgresses Sadc’s regional trade protocols.
A meeting which was supposed to have taken place between Industry minister Mike Bimha and his South African counterpart, Rob Davies, to resolve the impasse is yet to happen, with the Zimbabwean side said to be dithering about a definite date for the mooted tête-à-tête.
In her lawsuit, Mujuru lists Mugabe as the first respondent and argues that the imports ban is in fact escalating poverty levels among ordinary Zimbabweans.
She said by requiring a permit for the importation of basic goods, the government had to all intents and purposes banned the importation of those goods by the poor, as they could neither afford the permits nor manage to access the acquiring process.
“The said statutory instrument is the most insensitive piece of legislation ever to be enacted in independent Zimbabwe.
“By stroke of a pen, the second respondent, (Mike Bimha, the minster of Industry and Commerce) effectively banned the importation of almost all goods that sustained the lives of millions of Zimbabweans, who, because of the severe economic difficulties survive by engaging in informal trade.
Despite being a former vice president, I have turned to informal trade to survive. I am a widow, mother, war veteran and grandmother. Statutory 64 of 2016 made it impossible for me to continue with my informal trade … it has a negative and drastic impact on millions of the people.
“It has injected poverty in the informal traders’ lives and misery to the ordinary and suffering Zimbabweans. I am pained to note that the second respondent has had no qualms in resorting to a piece of legislation authored by Ian Douglas Smith,” Mujuru argues further.
The government imposed a ban on some consumer goods imports last month, 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 this month, with protesters burning a Zimra warehouse in the process.
Under Statutory Instrument 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.
South Africa, through its Department of Trade and Industry (dti), has formally expressed grave concern over the imports ban.
“The adverse impact on South African exporters cannot be underestimated and the dti continues to be responsive to affected exporters and to make representations to the government of Zimbabwe,” a South African government official said last week.
But meetings that had been arranged between Bimha and Davies have not materialised as the Zimbabwean minister was said to be “busy”.
“I still have not met him (Davies). I have been too busy and I also did not manage to travel to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (meeting) held in Kenya this month, where I had thought we would meet,” Bimha said last week, during the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress