The import restrictions circus

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were the Minister of Industry and Commerce, but I repeat myself (taken from Mark Twain quote on Members of Congress)

Source: The import restrictions circus – The Zimbabwean 08.07.2016

I have just read with utter amazement that the chief clowns of this circus at Ministry of Industry and Commerce are saying that the recently announced import restrictions only apply to corporates and not individuals who are still allowed to bring in items for personal use without an import licence, and therefore it’s okay. That is ridiculous logic.

Now the issue on these ill-timed import restrictions is really about their negative impact  on small informal business traders. We are saying that these restrictions have a serious negative impact on income generating for those cross border traders who need to survive.

It is estimated that as much as 200,000 people are currently cross border traders. They want to bring in decent quantities for resell in order to remain viable and these restrictions stifle that sector of the economy which is now the major source of income for many. The government is therefore taking away their bread and butter by restricting imports and requiring import licences. Imagine having to issue 200,000 import licences and then add corruption on top!

So saying that individuals can still bring in items for personal use does not address the problem created by these restrictions. Why is that so difficult to understand?

In my opinion these restrictions are ill timed for now until such time as we have revived the economy, created better jobs for the people and revived our local capacity to produce. Then import restrictions can come in but through a clinical and phased approach backed by research and not sentiment.

I reiterate again that lets stop importing maize from Mexico and Zambia because we can grow it here. That would make a huge difference to our trade deficit but let’s plan that properly for the next season.

Come guys we can think better than this!

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on


  • comment-avatar
    Joe Cool 6 years ago

    Vince, you mean well, but don’t think too well. This issue has nothing to do with ‘logic’. They made regulations which were violently rejected. They are afraid of the precedent which will be set by directly retracting them, so, they are instead retracting them by way of ‘modification’, and ‘clarification’ – but not admitting to backing down. Get it?

  • comment-avatar
    TJINGABABILI 6 years ago


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    reader 6 years ago

    Problem is that they at the borders have gone further and will even takeaway your 2lt coking oil you as an individual brings for own use. IMAGINE how rich i will get selling 1x2lt cooking oil.
    A friend had his bar of Palmolive soap (used and bought in TM) conviscated they say no soap imports.

    Time for The ministers to talk and the information to be CORRECTLY dissapated down stream.

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    The idea on paper means we’ll, restrict imports would on paper = increased demand for local goods that was a brilliant theoretical idea same as farm inversions.
    In reality mismanagement and corruption by government officials has led to noble ideas being turned into more problems that need solutions.
    Current problem restrict imports on basic goods in reality would create and artfitial demand as the companies that normally get licences are owned by either a government official or politician hence the need to please self than the majority.
    Black markets would start again, prices controlled mafia style would go up,

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    All this has been caused by emotion that made zim a basket case. Imagine a leader with degrees failing to know that commercial farms are run on credit ie overdrafts;loans and crop stop orders. The farms are bought using Agribank loans. Now since our economy was agro based and unskilled farmers replaced skilled farmers racially. Further the unproductive farmer is expected to compensate all creditors at the farm and the government is now importing the majze which was previously over supplied. What do we call such leadership?

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    kushi 6 years ago

    hakuna zvakadaro. hutongi hweudzvanyiriri nyika haina mari yayo tirikushandisa dolla rekuAmerica ndosiya 2kg sunlight washing powder ichiita 37 rand ndonoitenga kuzimbabwe ne 8 dollar imarii yaunofanira kuva unayo kuti uwane 8 dollars kana une SA rand . nhasi tiri kutengeserwa 1 dollar ne15r so 15×8 this means ndootengeswa iyoyi sunlight ne 120r .Haibo regai kutambudza vanhu muchidaro Vanhu vanozvishandira kuedza kuzviraramisa IZVI ZVINOREVA KUTI VANHU VEZIMBABWE VANOFANIRA KUNGOSHUNGURUDZWA nyika inaPresident akadzidza manje sei achitadza kuchengetedza nyika diki yakadai