INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Mike Bimha says a raft of policy changes recently made by the government to stop the importation of cheap goods are unlikely to bear much fruit due to smuggling at the country’s border posts.
By Musa Dube
Recently Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa introduced measures that will see taxes being levied on imported products.
Speaking at a business breakfast meeting in Bulawayo last week, Bimha said efforts to control cheap imports that were affecting the local industry were likely to be in vain due to corruption by the law enforcement agents and customs officials who are smuggling goods in broad daylight.
“There are some interventions that the government has made; efforts in removing some products from the general imports licence but what is happening is that not all goods are coming through the normal channel and even when you apply duty, its only effective when the goods come through the formal channel.
Unfortunately there is a lot of smuggling,” said Bimha.
“So despite the fact that we now require import licences to import, you see these banned imports coming in because they are smuggled in,” said the minister.
He said there was a well-organised network of corrupt officials who are bribed to let goods in without paying duty.
“One of the reasons why there is smuggling is corruption by the officials at border posts. There are goods that are coming in when they are not supposed to come in. For example there is duty applied to shoes and for someone to bring a pair of shoes it is supposed to cost US$4 but you see shoes being sold for a dollar or dollar for two,” said Bimha.
He said smuggling of goods at the country’s borders had become a complex issue which needed all the relevant stakeholders to deal with.
“Corruption is real and it’s not only for the Ministry of Industry to deal with but we need a multi-sectoral approach to the issue of smuggling and ensure that goods get in through the normal channels and pay duty as we try to support our local industry. We need the police, Home Affairs and Zimra officials to get involved,” said the minister.