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Makuhwa Reloaded

Import ban not well-considered




Government recently banned imports of a wide range of products, mainly basic food commodities, through Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016.

Unsuspecting individuals were stunned when government’s tax collection agency, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) forfeited goods on the list of banned products when they tried to bring them into the country once the new law became operational.

This triggered commotion at Beitbridge Border Post, which later spread into South Africa were retailers from Musina, the border town in South Africa that had largely benefitted from the import of goods by individuals and cross-border traders.

At one point, the border post had to be closed due to the turmoil; protests on the Zimbabwean side led to the burning of a ZIMRA warehouse at the border.

Last week, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mike Bimha, said there was no turning back on the ban “because the policy is in Zimbabwe’s best interests and was introduced after wide consultations”.

State Security Minister, Kembo Mohadi, supported Bimha, saying the protests were caused by angry South African businesspeople trying to blackmail government into re-thinking its noble policy.

He insisted that use of illegal tactics to force Harare to adopt policies that favour the South Africans would not persuade a revision of the policy. This week, Bimha was giving a different spin to the ban, saying individuals are not affected by the import ban.



He says SI 64 “focuses on goods purchased for resale”. He says ZIMRA has been asked to clarify this and tell the public that the Statutory Instrument “is not targeting goods for individual consumption”.

Yet it was ZIMRA that had turned down individuals trying to import groceries from South Africa on the basis of the import ban. ZIMRA insists it “is implementing SI 64 of 2016 as gazetted” and will not give in to any form of pressure from protestors.

ZIMRA said in a statement: “Members of the public are encouraged to comply with the requirements of SI 64 of 2016. If there are any grievances with the provisions of SI 64 of 2016, ZIMRA advises that these should be raised through relevant structures to engage government for appropriate consideration.”

Bimha should know that ZIMRA is there to implement the law, rather than comply with political statements meant to assuage public anger.

The least he should do is to amend SI 64 of 2016 to make it possible for individuals to buy groceries from South Africa and elsewhere without facing the same penalties imposed on merchants bringing goods for resale in the country.

But even as government attends to that problem, it is imperative for Zimbabwe to consider the ramifications of its current decision; the import ban may fall foul of various treaties it has signed with its neighbours.

The rationale for this decision is well understood, but there are hallmarks of a knee-jerk reaction in the manner we have chosen to deal with the problems we are facing as a country.

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