FORMER Education minister David Coltart has accused the Zanu PF government of violating the United Nations Educatinal, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) statutes by charging customs and import duty on textbooks and other reading material.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
In a statement on Thursday, Coltart, who served as Education minister in the inclusive government between 2009 and 2013, said the recent 40% customs duty imposed on books and other reading material violated Statutory Instruments 192 and 193 of the 1950 Unesco Treaty which prohibit charging of duty on imported educational, scientific and cultural materials.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials, also known as the Florence Agreement, or simply the Unesco Treaty.
Materials covered by the treaty include printed books, newspapers, periodicals, government publications, printed music, works of art, antiques over 100 years old, scientific instruments used in education or research, and educational films. The agreement does not apply to materials that contain excessive amounts of advertising.’
“The law is outrageous. Not only does it breach this Unesco agreement, but it will also undermine our already battling libraries and seriously undermine the quality of education in Zimbabwe,” Coltart said.
“I call upon Patrick Chinamasa (Finance minister) to repeal this new law immediately. I trust that Unesco will also complain to the Zimbabwean government and take whatever action it is allowed to if the Zimbabwean government remains in breach.”
On September 1 this year, government gazetted duty increases and reductions for several goods and items in line with its proposals and subsequent statutory instruments on customs and excise duty. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is enforcing these new tariffs and all book imports would be charged 40% plus $1 per kilogramme.
The increase in import duty will likely cause a sharp rise in the prices of books.