Restrictions on imports of selected basic commodities under Statutory Instrument Number 64 of 2016 will not be reversed because the policy is in Zimbabwe’s best interests and was introduced after wide consultations, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha has said. His State Security counterpart, Minister Kembo Mohadi, has added that South African businesspersons operating near Beitbridge Border Post should not think they can use illegal tactics to force Harare to adopt policies that favour them but are detrimental to Zimbabwe.
The ministerial declarations follow Friday’s chaos at the Zimbabwe-South Africa border in Beitbridge when rogue elements and businesspersons on the other side of the Limpopo River took advantage of frustrations by Zimbabwean travellers over implementation of SI 64/2016.
Minister Bimha yesterday told The Sunday Mail that Government would not deviate from engineering its economic revival agenda and would press ahead with the limited import restrictions.
“There is no change whatsoever in Government’s position. The Statutory Instrument went through all the processes of public consultations with relevant stakeholders and then through Cabinet. So how can we just wake up one morning and declare that we have changed the policy?
“The SI is in the interest of the economy because we are looking at how things will change in the medium to long term and not its effects today,” he said.
Minister Bimha said the regulations did not bar people from importing a few products for personal consumption, and were aimed at stopping importation of truckloads of locally available goods at a time Government was trying to boost manufacturing capacity. He said Zimbabwe would apprise Sadc trade ministers on why the country introduced the restrictions at the Council of Ministers meeting slated for Botswana next week.
Minister Bimha said, “If you recall, two years ago we started by restricting the importation of cooking oil and the results are now starting to show. The cooking oil industry is growing, creating jobs and production is increasing to the level where we will soon start exporting.
“This sort of thing happens in every other country that wishes to promote the growth of its industry, it is nothing peculiar to Zimbabwe.
“We advised Sadc of our decision and they understood that it is our sovereign right to introduce such regulations as a means of promoting our own economy. Next week, we will be attending a Sadc Council of Ministers in Botswana where we will provide them with further clarification on our policy decisions.”
State Security Minister Mohadi said South African businesspeople in the border town of Musina should not think they could dictate to Government what customs regulations to adopt.
“Why should the South African businesspeople try to influence our policy formulation? They have their own laws and we don’t meddle with them. “The burning of tyres during demonstrations is foreign to us and we suspect that a third hand was involved in the chaos that rocked Beitbridge town on Friday,” he said.
Last month, Government gazzetted SI 64.2016, which removed goods that are locally available from Open General Import Licence exemption.
The goods include bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits, vegetables, pizza, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice creams, cultured milk, cheese, coffee creamers, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams and plastic pipes.
The SI also controls importation of second-hand tyres, urea and ammonium nitrate fertilisers, tile adhesives and tylon, shoe polish and synthetic hair products. Goods categorised as builder-ware products including wheelbarrows (flat pan and concrete pan wheelbarrows), roofing frameworks, pillars, columns, balustrade, shutters, towers, masts, roofs and roofing framework are also part of the restricted list.
Flash doors, beds, wardrobes, bedroom and dining room suites, office furniture and specified woven fabrics of cotton were restricted. The restrictions follow banning of the wholesale importation of cooking oil through a similar mechanism two years ago. Since that ban, locally manufactured cooking oil now occupies 95 percent of supermarket shelf space, a massive jump from 15 percent in 2014, according to official statistics.
Over that period, the commodity’s price came down from around US$4,20 per two litres to between US$2,60 and US$2,80. Yesterday, there was – as expected – traffic congestion in Beitbridge as trucks with commercial cargo resumed operating after anti-riot police contained Friday’s situation.
Minister Mohadi said those who had with valid import permits were moving goods without any challenges.