Cross-border traders have welcomed government’s decision to suspend Statutory Instrument (SI) 122 of 2017 lifting the ban on the importation of certain commodities, but industrialists warned that the move could result in the closure of some companies and haemorrhaging of the few jobs that the country has managed to retain.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Zimbabwe Cross-Border Traders Association president Killer Zivhu said his members were now back in business.
“Government was effectively protecting cartels, blocking small traders from bringing in the same commodities that big supermarkets and other manufacturers were importing into the country,” Zivhu said.
He, however, argued that the government should allow the market to determine prices.
“Government should guard against trying to regulate prices. We cannot be forced to accept electronic transactions at the same rate as foreign currency when we are sourcing hard cash on the parallel market,” Zivhu said.
“It’s effectively forcing us out of business and flies in the face of empowerment and economic liberalisation.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Sifelani Jabangwe yesterday said: “We believe SI 122 was the best thing to happen in this country. We have seen positive growth with companies that had closed opening. The opening up of the borders will be a sad development. It will mean some companies will have to close and retrenchments are inevitable.”
Oil Expressers’ Association of Zimbabwe boss Busisa Moyo said while his membership understood the suspension to be temporary, industry was worried about the lack of consultations.
“The removal of the SI 122 is temporary as we understand it. We are concerned about the short notice of its removal, hurried consultation when people’s livelihoods are on the line and that big multinationals who have invested in the sector will not trust the country as a credible foreign direct investment destination to support internal development programmes,” Moyo said.
He added that industry was hoping government’s deal with the Afreximbank to be signed later this month will help local manufacturers.
“Our members have embarked on soya growing,” Moyo said, adding more than 2 000 jobs could be in danger if the suspension is made permanent.
Zimbabwe Sugarcane Farmers Development Association boss Edmore Hwarare weighed-in, arguing the country has enough stockpiles of sugar.
“There is no need to import. The sugar industry in Zimbabwe is the best organised agricultural sector in the Sadc region and the country is in danger of bringing in cancerous sugars with industrial chemicals as happened a few years ago.
“If this suspension is sustained, then we would have no option, but to retrench. The sugar industry with 25 000 employees supports over 250 000 families and those livelihoods are at risk. We have artificial shortages caused by cartels who have large sums of bond notes that they now want to dispose and keep value in the form of sugar,” Hwarare said.
“There are other groups smuggling sugar into countries like the DRC from where they bring foreign currency to trade on the black market. Our country is at risk and the lack of information at government level about the sugar industry has not helped matters.”
Government announced a cocktail of measures meant to stem the run-in on basic commodities that has seen supermarket shelves emptying.