The government has scoffed at suggestions that its import ban has negatively impacted on South African businesses, particularly those in and around Beitbridge.
Source: We are taking back our jobs, Zim tells SA – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 21, 2016
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Industry minister Mike Bimha told NewsDay on the sidelines of the burial of the late former top bureaucrat, Charles Utete on Tuesday that the World Trade Organisation allows member countries to resort to protectionist policies.
“We have given notice to Sadc and we are open to discussions,” he said.
“Those that are crying over lost jobs must know that we are taking that which is ours. They have always been our jobs and we are just taking them back.”
The ruling Zanu PF promised 2,2 million jobs during the 2013 election campaign, but critics have argued it is yet to create any, but instead has presided over more haemorrhage.
In June, the government promulgated Statutory Instrument (S1) 64 of 2016, which restricted the importation of certain products in an ambitious drive to promote local industries.
The move was met with violent protests, while South Africa and Zambia have spoken out strongly about the controls, but Bimha indicated there is not going to be a rethink.
“We will not have a rethink of a good policy, our job is to communicate to those that do not understand and teach them to do so,” he said.
“We have not violated any regional or international protocol because the World Trade Organisation (WTO) allows member countries that, when they realise import challenges, to resort to safeguard measures.”
South Africa immediately sought audience with Zimbabwe over the ban, while Zambia’s Association of Manufacturers said the measures would negatively affect exports of over $20 million.
The association’s president, Rosetta Chabala described Zimbabwe’s move as a “threat to regional unity and international trade”.
Millions of Zimbabweans sought economic refuge in South Africa at the height of the country’s economic meltdown, while others have benefited from importing foodstuffs for resale across the country, as production levels plummeted.
But Bimha insisted the ban was for “a very small fraction of our import bill”.
“In the first place, our industry is not growing because it has been stifled by these imports. There is no way it can grow and most of our companies died because our markets have been swamped by imports and that has also caused low capacity utilisation by local businesses,” he said.
“We are not stopping here; we will now go into discussions with our local producers to have a relook at their product pricing models, as well as issues of quality. Our prices must be reasonable and the quality of the best standards.”