Chinese blankets which are smuggled into the country are threatening the viability of one of Zimbabwe’s leading companies as they are sold cheaper than locally-produced products.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Waverley Blankets employees took to Harare’s streets on Friday protesting against the smuggling of blankets, which they said had weighed the company down heavily.
The workers alleged the blankets were packaged as Waverley products to circumvent a government ban on the importation of blankets.
Waverley Blankets is the biggest producer of blankets in the country. It used to employ more than 1 200 workers, but only 300 still have their jobs.
“We have seen a lot of blankets which are being imported from outside the country, mostly from China that are packaged the same way as ours,” said Farai Kudyakwenzara, a representative of the workers.
“Today (Friday) we went to Gulf Complex in town and these blankets are costing $25 each.
“However, the packaging is of poor quality, but it is difficult to tell the difference.
“We have heard those who import the blankets are bribing officials.
“But what they don’t realise is that they are also killing our livelihoods. These blankets they are bringing are of poor quality and cannot even last.”
Kudyakwenzara said people who bought the counterfeit blankets would blame Waverly for the poor quality products.
“Imagine what will happen if a person buys something of poor quality, he/she will associate us with those products, yet ours are genuine,” he said.
“What it means is that we will be out of business and ultimately we will be retrenched. We have to fight for our survival. They are destroying our goodwill.”
He said Waverley workers were considering staging a march to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to put pressure on the tax collector to stop the smuggling of blankets.
In 2013 the government introduced a Statutory Instrument 174 of 2013 that provides for the payment of 40% plus $2,50 on imported blankets.
This year government again introduced Statutory Instrument 19 of 2016 that prohibits the importation of blankets and related products without an import licence.
Zimbabwe Textile Workers’ Union president Boniface Mbeve weighed in, saying action must be taken before it is too late.
“The government is not doing enough to protect the industry. We have Statutory Instrument 19 of 2016, but still we see a lot of blankets flooding the market,” he said.
“We want the government to enforce the law. These people are taking away our livelihoods and we will engage the Industry minister to chip in and assist.
“We have reported the matter to Zimra, but there is no action.”
The workers said if smuggling was stopped, Waverely Blankets would survive Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.