Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau—
Government is moving to address bottlenecks impeding investment in the motor industry by crafting a motor vehicle policy that will reorganise the sector.
This comes amid reports that Government has relaxed its position on the importation of second-hand clothes to allow for the resuscitation and reorganisation of the textile and clothing industry before the policy can be enforced.
Investors have been reluctant to invest in the motor industry owing to ambiguities related to policy on the importation of second hand vehicles.
Several suitors indicated willingness to invest in the sector, but remained on the sidelines owing to the absence of a motor vehicle policy.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha yesterday said most countries had well defined policies on vehicle assembly and manufacturing which made it easier for investors to make decisions.
“We have many investors willing to invest in motor vehicle manufacturing and assembly in it’s various forms but they have been unable to do so because we do not have a motor vehicle policy in place.
“Investors would like to know if there are any guarantees that they will have a market, because if we are to continue importing vehicles say from Japan, there is need to come up with an acceptable arrangement that guarantees return on investment. The industry is capital intensive.”
Dr Bimha said a lot of ground had been covered and what was left was to finalise the policy which is expected to be merged with the conformity assessment on second-hand motor vehicles.
The conformity assessment policy looks at setting minimum standards that imported vehicles have to meet.
The policy will look at how other ancillary sectors such as small and medium enterprises will relate with the companies.
This means there is a possibility of some SMEs providing components such as mats and windows, among others. It will also put in place safeguards against conflict between the various players in the sectors.
Zimbabwe has several motor vehicle assembly companies, but the sector has not registered significant growth owing to competition from grey imports.
Minister Bimha said consultations with vehicle importers and others were underway.
“This calls for extensive consultations so that we do not come up with a policy that will say imports will no longer be allowed or something that will cause conflict among the various players in the industry,” he said.
South Africa does not allow the importation of second-hand vehicles to protect its robust motor vehicle industry where major brands have assembly and manufacturing plants.
Minister Bimha said the policy on banning second-hand clothes was there, but cannot be enforced at present.
“It’s a policy that was made with the hope that when we begin to enforce it, we will have improved local production. We cannot ban something when we do not have an alternative. People need to have an alternative if we are to say you cannot bring in clothes,” he said.
“We can only enforce when we believe that we have the capacity to make more or less the same as what we are importing. If we can’t, we might as well continue importing.”
He said Government now has to revisit the textile and clothing industry to ramp production so that it is able to make quality clothes at reasonable prices.
He gave an example of Ethiopia, which has an industrial park designated a special economic zone for clothing, and employs thousands of people as a template that needs to be followed.
“When you have such an organised set-up which produces quality clothes at reasonable prices, then you can talk of banning,” he said.
Minister Bimha said there was a drive to turn cotton into clothing, which hinges on the resuscitation to textile companies such as David Whitehead.
Government has hit the ground running with major investments into cotton production, which are expected to provide raw materials for the clothing and textile industry, which used to employ thousands in areas such as Chegutu, Kadoma and Bulawayo.
This will come as a relief to dealers of second hand clothes who, apart from providing livelihoods to their families, have also provided a cheaper alternative to mostly low income earners with cheaper clothes.
The fashion-conscious have also not been left out as they target good quality clothes at low prices.
Second hand clothes have set up a countrywide network where clothes are paraded on the sidewalks and flea markets with items going for as little as a dollar.
Dealers have argued that Government’s decision to ban second hand clothes was premised on the wrong assumption, as industry that was being protected was also importing clothes from South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania.
Government banned the importation of second hand clothes and shoes in 2015 to allow the local industry to grow as it was being choked by cheap imports.
The ban caused an outcry as people wanted cheaper alternatives while others defended their source of livelihood.