By Rex Mphisa
SEVERAL Zimbabwe-bound truckers are parked on the South African side of the Beitbridge Border Post as importers ponder their next move following a sharp increase in excise duty by government.
The new duties are likely to see an upsurge in fraudulent documentations as importers try to cheat their way out.
A shipping agent yesterday said a lot of importers had not anticipated the steep adjustment of duty after government finally conceded the surrogate bond currency was not at par with the United States dollar.
“Many drivers have been on the South African side since Friday (last week) when duties were adjusted. Importers are running around to raise duties required now,” the shipping agent said.
“We have not been receiving many documents and some are contemplating returning the goods to manufacturers and study the market.”
Customs and excise duties shot up threefold to the bond note value last Friday following government’s gazetting of Statutory Instrument 32 of 2019, ushering in the new currency, the real time gross settlement dollar (ZWR).
The central bank devalued the local ZWR currency and pegged it at 2,5 against the US$ from 1:1 and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority moved to effect the changes in its systems, directly bringing up duties with a similar adjustment margin.
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Most importers were caught by surprise and their bonds did not hold as much as the new adjustments, likely to see an increase in the prices of goods by 300%.
Another shipping agent said the new duty regime was likely to spark a new wave of cooked up documents and more cases of smuggling.
“If things become difficult, people try anything. We are likely to see an upsurge in smuggling and falsification of documents,” said another agent.
A Harare-based importer yesterday said the new duties would simply be passed to consumers who are already faced with an acute shortage of other basics like bread.
“Prices will go up by the same percentage the duty has been adjusted,” Godbless Machipisa of Harare said.
His company imports domestic consumables and beverages.
He said the new duty regime was shocking.
“Where we paid a duty of $11 000 bond, we have been levied $29 000 and this cost will be pushed to the consumers,” he said.
Zimbabwe mostly relies on imports, whose prices are expected to rise this week.
A wave of violence rocked the country in January following a public outcry when the government hiked fuel prices by 150%.
Seventeen people were shot dead by the military and police, while more than 80 were left nursing gunshot injuries, according to civic society organisations.
Several others were forced to flee their homes and the country as the State security agents launched a brutal and bloody crackdown on suspected protesters and the protest organisers.
Some Zimbabweans have called on the government to swallow its pride and just use the US$, which would effectively kill the three-tier pricing system blamed for price disparities in the country.