Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Zimbabwe and South Africa on collision course over imports

The government is headed for further collision not only with small traders and ordinary Zimbabweans, but also with its biggest trading partner, South Africa (SA).

This comes after Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha said yesterday that the government was considering widening the ban on imported basic commodities from outside Zimbabwe into the country.

Just a few days ago, Zimbabwean and SA officials met to try and resolve the controversial imports ban which has hurt SA companies and also sparked deadly riots at Beitbridge Border Post earlier this month.

But Bimha told the Daily News in an interview yesterday that the government was not only not going to review its current import restrictions, but was also mulling adding more goods to the list of banned items that cannot be imported into the country.
Zimbabwe and South Africa on collision course over imports
“If we are to change the policy, we might change by putting more products.

“We cannot change a policy that supports our local industry. And I am sure our neighbours understand that,” he said on the side-lines of a meeting of the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment Programme.

“There are no agreements (with SA). We continue to discuss and share information, and in terms of SI 64 it was just for us to tell them why we did that and for them to understand. They understand because we also have our issues with them.

“So, we told them why we did it and we continue to do that. We also have trade issues with them. We have pharmaceuticals that go to SA and they inquire that they be air-lifted and that makes them cost more.

“We are still talking to them to say why should you make a restriction on our pharmaceuticals when your pharmaceuticals we allow them to come through the border. We have a lot of issues,” Bimha added.

The trade chief also said Zimbabwe had likewise briefed the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) on its intentions to boost the fortunes of local industry.

“Sadc has been very vocal in support of the removal of sanctions and when you have sanctions your banks cannot give money to industry and industry cannot grow. So, they are very much aware of the situation that we went through.

“We advised Sadc of SI 64 and why we are doing it and I said this is a temporary measure which is time-bound. We need to put more measures up to ensure that our manufacturing base is consolidated,” Bimha said.

On July 1, riots erupted in the border town of Beitbridge as traders protested the imports ban which they said had killed businesses and livelihoods.

SA is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner although its northern neighbour imports more from it than what it sells to its markets — with Pretoria contributing about 36 percent of Zimbabwe’s total imports during the first quarter of this year, according to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) figures.

When Zimbabwe and SA governments met last week to look at the imports ban, Pretoria insisted that Zimbabwe was breaching regional trade protocols.

“Zimbabwe is in breach of Southern African Development Community protocols and the issue will be taken up at a technical level. We have already sent the list of items to Zimbabwe.

“It will also be raised at Cabinet as well as at bilateral forums,” SA’s director general (permanent secretary) for the Department of Trade and Industry, Lionel October, said during a briefing with SA media last week, adding ominously that: “We cannot accept the way our exporters are being treated”.
Source: Daily News
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