Govt moves to pacify cross-border traders

The government will facilitate the provision of bulk import licences for cross-border traders to enable them to bring products into Zimbabwe as it pacifies the restive constituency.

Source: Govt moves to pacify cross-border traders – The Standard July 10, 2016


Three weeks ago government promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016, which restricts the importation of certain products without a licence. The licence costs $30 and is valid for three months.

At a meeting held last week, it was agreed that traders were going to be given a quota of the import requirements to supply the market.

Zimbabwe Cross-Border Traders’ Association secretary-general Augustine Tawanda confirmed the meeting.

“One of the key outcomes of the meeting is for a quota or import gap to be granted to the small-scale players. What was agreed was that the industry ministry must set aside a certain amount of tonnage which should allow traffic by the small-scale player. You will still need to get an import licence, but the difference will be that it will be a bulk licence allocated to the association responsible for that particular sector,” Tawanda said.

A review committee was established with representatives from the ministry and the cross-border traders to oversee the implementation of SI 64 of 2016.

“Basically, the thinking is we [the review committee] want to identify where our industry has got productive capacity for national consumption and where it does not have. The difference between them is what we are calling the import gap, which is what will be brought in so that the trader does not have to individually go to the ministry,” Tawanda said.

Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha told Standardbusiness that the meeting with the cross-border traders was positive and progressive, although more engagement was still needed.

“We had a good meeting with cross-border traders and we will continue to engage them. We also want to work with business associations and organisations to see how we can empower cross border traders. We [government and cross-border traders] will walk together in a way that will benefit them [cross-border traders],” Bimha said.

“As policymakers, we tend to look at things in the long-term, but the ordinary person will not do the same.

Unfortunately, when you do not look at things in long-term, you begin to panic. The private sector was saying ‘we are under siege from imports, can you help us?’ This SI (64 of 2016) is a response to the private sector.”
The meeting came as government was on the receiving end of a backlash over the blanket import ban whose token waiver last week was not accepted by traders.

The waiver allows individuals to bring into the country such goods as a coffee creamers (Cremora) maximum of 1kg, cereals (2kg), hair products (six packets of a weight not exceeding 1,5kg), washing powder (4kg), mayonnaise or salad creams (not exceeding 2 litres) and bar soap (box of 24).

There is also potato crisps (one pack of 12 of 125g each), peanut butter (2kg), jams (2kg), canned fruits and vegetables (2kg), yoghurt (1kg), cheese (1kg), juice blend (4 litres), camphor creams, white petroleum jellies (180ml) as well as shoe polish (one pack of 12 of 50ml or 40g each).

The waiver is granted once a month and on the first entry only. The generality of people dismissed this waiver as a mockery.

Small to Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe executive officer Farai Mutambanengwe said while the move to allow individuals to bring into the country goods for personal consumption was good, the quantities allowed were too little to sustain a family for a month.

“The government should just allow people to bring enough for personal consumption. Obviously, there are families that have been affected by the restriction. Families and SMEs who were surviving by cross-border trading are still affected,” Mutambanengwe said.

He said government should not have gone ahead to announce a policy without proper consultation.

“I am afraid that things are now being done in retrospect instead of consulting before announcing such a policy.

It’s now a big challenge in this country where people first announce policies and start consulting later,” he said.