BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The government has been accused of backtracking on its policy giving incentives to non-exporters and has not allowed licence holders to sell in foreign currency, contrary to what it had promised when Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were introduced.
In a bid to encourage trade, investment, job creation and effective administration, government introduced SEZs several years ago, but the programme is yet to be fully implemented as government had been coming up with different policies, frustrating investors in the process.
For instance, President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently signed into law the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) Bill, effectively repealing the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Act, the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Act and the Joint Ventures Act.
This affected functions of the Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority (Zimseza), which was responsible for issuing licences to investors wishing to invest in areas under SEZs.
“Industry needs clarity on the Special Economic Zones policy. At its inception, Zimseza and the Act were very clear that the basis of getting a licence was import substitution or export potential or both,” Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Matabeleland chapter president Shepherd Chawira said during a business breakfast meeting held in Bulawayo last week.
Chawira said one of the benefits of having a licence was to sell goods and services in foreign currency to enable a licensee to generate money for raw materials.
“The government has backtracked on giving incentives to non-exporters and has not allowed licence holders to sell in forex.
“Traction and enthusiasm in this key driver of reindustrialisation has been dampened by this policy shift,” he said.
“Many applications for licensing were turned down and some have licences, which they are not going to benefit from.
“Policy inconsistencies continue to haunt us.
“As Matabeleland industry, we have viewed SEZ as a key driver of our reindustrialisation agenda.
“By the way, the whole idea of special economic zones was mooted here in the Matabeleland chapter of the CZI.”
Chawira pleaded with Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza, who attended the meeting, to get clarity on the issue as it was of great importance to them, especially now that the Zida Bill had been signed into law.
Reached for comment, Zimseza CEO Edwin Kondo said he could not comment as the Zida Act had come into force.
Zida brought the work done by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority, Zimseza and the joint ventures authority under one roof.
It also established a one-stop investment services centre that will solely be responsible for dealing with investors.
Zimseza had designated six areas as public SEZs, namely Belmont-Kelvin-Donnington-Westondale Corridor in Bulawayo, Imvumila (Bulawayo), Masuwe (Victoria Falls), Sunway City Pvt Ltd (Harare), Beitbridge (Beitbridge) and Fernhill (Mutare).
A SEZ is a geographical region that has economic laws that are more free-market-oriented than a country’s typical or national laws.
Zimseza had also licensed about nine private SEZs, namely Trade Kings Zimbabwe (manufacturing), Ecosoft (agro-processing), Afrochine (mining), Karo Resources (mining), Nkonyeni Agricultural Hub (agro-processing), Varun Beverages Zimbabwe (manufacturing), Prospect Lithium (mining), Lentsloane (multi-sectoral) and Vislink Investment Pvt Ltd.
Three investors were placed in two public zones and these are food processing firm Davipel Trading at Sunway City Pvt Ltd, Shepco BMA Fasteners Pvt Ltd and Chingasses Zimbabwe Pvt Ltd both in Belmont-Kelvin-Donnington-Westondale Corridor.