The Sunday Mail
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has directed the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to immediately come up with a special arrangement through which companies and individuals with free funds can import basic commodities, while the enabling legal instrument to support the urgent arrangement is being finalised.
On Tuesday, Cabinet indefinitely suspended Statutory Instrument 122 of 2017, which — among other provisions — restricted imports of basic commodities that are ordinarily manufactured locally.
Captains of industry fear that the intervention exposes them to competition from cheap imports.
The inability of local firms to supply the market, which resulted in stock-outs and panic buying by consumers, saw Government lifting import restrictions.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told The Sunday Mail that Government had instructed Zimra to allow the imports while a legal instrument was being drafted.
“The (Attorney-General) is currently seized with coming up with the legislation which will be out any time soon. But what we have said is that before the law is in place, people are still free to import the specified goods under the Open General Import Licence,” said Minister Ndlovu.
In a letter to Zimra Commissioner-General Ms Faith Mazanhi on Friday, Secretary for Industry Mrs Abigail Shonhiwa wrote: “… note that the ministry has since lodged the draft amendment instrument with the Attorney-General 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 ( Open General Import Licence). We are requesting Zimra to facilitate importers with passage while we wait for the gazetting.”
Ms Mazanhi told The Sunday Mail yesterday that the tax body had taken note of the directive.
“We acknowledge receipt of the letter, so we want to advise the public that we will comply with Government’s directive. People should, however, understand that they need to pay the normal duty for imported goods in line with the specified rebate,” she said.
Minister Ndlovu said Government would not throw industry under the bus as the intervention was temporary.
“We are mindful of the concerns of industry and I have been regularly meeting with them … What is important is that this policy is temporary and it has come into effect to protect the general public who were suffering because of the shortages and speculative tendencies by those who were charging outrageous amounts.
“We are very appreciative of the progress being made by some of our industries which are performing well in a tough environment. What is important to note is that production by our industries has not gone down, it is the demand for goods that has gone up.
“We had to come up with this intervention in light of the imminent festive season where demand for goods is very high. Going forward, we will continue to review the situation and we will continue to work with our local industries to come up with solutions that benefit everyone.”
A new industrial policy that is being fine-tuned to align it with the aspirational goals of Government’s interim economic blueprint, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, will be launched by year-end.
“We are in the process of fine-tuning the policy so that it is in line with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, otherwise, it would have been launched by now.
“Within the framework of our industrial policy, there is also the Local Content Policy, which is already in place and Government institutions, local business and the public in general need to understand it to know what role they can apply to promote local brands,” Minister Ndlovu said.
Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe president and United Refineries Limited chief executive Mr Busisa Moyo said a policy to promote local products was the way to go.
“We need to strengthen Buy Zimbabwe which is where we were before this new development. I hope they mean what they are saying that it is temporary.
“We also doubt that the importers and traders are going to be charging in local currency. We were not charging in forex because we were extending goodwill towards the relationship we had with Government,” he said.
Commodities that can now be imported through the open general import licence include animal oils and fats, baked beans, body creams, bottled water, cement, cereals, cheese, coffee creams, cooking oil, crude soya bean oil, fertiliser, finished steel roofing sheets, wheat flour and ice cream.
Juice blends, jams, margarine, mayonnaise, packaging materials, peanut butter, pizza base, potato crisps, salad creams, shoe polish, soap, sugar, synthetic hair products, wheel barrows, agrochemicals and stock feeds are also included.