RIOT police intervened to quell riots at Beitbridge Border Post on Saturday, as shoppers and cross-border traders threatened to beat up customs officials following a blanket ban on all imported goods from South Africa.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA/TAPIWA ZIVIRA
According to regulations gazetted last week, one now needs a permit to import some basic commodities.
Officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) ambushed the shoppers by collecting duty before demanding to see import permits, citing a Constitutional Court ruling.
The ruling followed an application by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
This enraged the cross border traders, who converged under a shed in the customs yard and began chanting anti-government songs.
Customs officials were taken aback by the sudden turn of events and called police, who in turn summoned their support unit to control the disgruntled crowd.
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But police folded their arms when they heard Zimra had collected duty and were refusing to release goods.
Zimra officials then allowed reason to prevail and the shoppers left with their goods, with the officials saying the new regulations would be implemented on Monday (yesterday).
Reports last night indicated the new measures had been suspended, although this was not independently verified.
Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha said the new regulations will only come into effect from July 1.
Zimra regional manager at Beitbridge Batsirayi Chadzingwa referred all questions to their head office in Harare.
Government last week gazetted stringent regulations meant to control the importation of goods that were available locally under Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
Goods that have been removed from the general import licence and now required a permit to be brought into the country include coffee creamers (Cremora), camphor creams, white petroleum jellies and body creams.
Goods categorised as builders’ ware like wheelbarrows (flat pan and concrete pan wheelbarrows), structures and parts of structures of iron or steel (bridges and bridges section, lock gates, towers, lattice masts, roofs, roofing frameworks, doors, windows and their frames and threshold for doors, shutters, balustrade, pillars and columns) and plates, rods, angles, shapes section and tubes prepared for use in structures of iron and steel ware, were also on the list of the restricted products.
The list also includes furniture, baked beans, potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jams, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza base, yoghurts, flavoured milks, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese.
Synthetic hair products, popular with women were also covered by the SI.
Bimha told NewsDay last night that government had not banned any product.
“We did not ban. We have introduced a licence system for the importation of certain goods. The licence fee is $30,” he said.
Bimha said the licence would be valid for a period of three months and was open to anyone who wanted, provided they justified the reasons for importing.
“Those who want to import have to apply, but we need to establish why you are importing and should be able to give a genuine reason why you are importing, if its water, we will ask, why and is there no water in the country,” he said.
Bimha said the introduction of a licence system for importing certain goods was a follow up from last year, when government removed cooking oil and sugar, among other products, from the general import licence.
“This means people cannot just import things as they want, but they can import if they have a licence and one can only get the licence if they are certified,” he explained.
“We are moving forward. We did this with products like cooking oil and sugar. We want to support the local industry. Most companies previously could not produce, but now they have acquired the technologies and are able to produce. So they can increase their capacities through a local boost.”
Bimha said the restrictions would boost local production, adding there was need to support local industries.