Harare’s shame as informal trader blast consfistication of SA imports at border

THE  Confederation of Traders Associations (COTA) – a Zimbabwe grouping of informal traders’ organisations – on Tuesday condemned the cash strapped government’s move to confiscate SA imported goods from vendors.

COTA said taking away vendor’s wares was in contravention of the country’s constitution.

Addressing a press conference at the Roadport cross border bus terminus in Harare, COTA Secretary General, Stan Manyenga, said the Statutory Instrument 64 0f 2016 that was being used by the government should have been discussed with stakeholders before it was passed into law.

“It is quite inhumane, cruel and inconsiderate that a lot of our members lost their wares at various entry points at the country’s borders. We estimate that goods worth $US571000 (R8 410,287) were lost through this ad-hoc exercise as of last night,” Manyenga said.

Zimbabwe has a very high rate of unemployment and many citizens earn a living by importing goods from South Africa for resale.

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate has been estimated between 60% and as high as 95%. In its 2013 election manifesto, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party put unemployment at 60%. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai estimates unemployment is above 85 percent.

Manyenga called for the immediate repeal of the law allowing for confiscation of imported goods from vendors.

“The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority must immediately stop the confiscation of people’s goods at the borders and at roadblocks,” said Manyenga.

He added that the “Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 should be repealed as a matter of urgency as it is unconstitutional and a total violation of people’s fundamental rights”.

Manyenga said government “must compensate” all the traders whose goods were taken from them by state officials or lost during the fiasco at the Beitbridge border post and other points of entry.

Manyenga said all traders organisations under the COTA banner would meet next Monday to discuss the way forward.

National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) Board Chairperson Stan Zvorwadza warned members would get confrontational and defy the government if it continued to seize their wares.

“Section 57 of the Constitution prohibits the confiscation of private citizens’ goods and what is happening now only shows that our government is defiant of the fact that it should respect the tenets of the Constitutio0n of the country,” said Zvorwadza.

The NAVUZ board chairperson said Zimbabwe’s economy was “comatose” and instead of the government assisting those who were enterprising it was taking away their livelihood.

“On the backdrop of this failing economy, the government must be the last institution or organisation to harass citizens who are fighting against poverty and many other challenges,” said Zvorwadza, whose name in the shona language means “it is painful”.

Zvorwadza added: “We are clear at this point that if the government does not stop its behaviour of confiscation of people’s goods at borders, we are going to declare that people must resist.

“If government takes harassment as a norm, we will take resistance as a norm, so at this point I am sure there should be clarity. This is a very sensitive issue and we must not compromise for less, we must not allow people to continue abusing Zimbabweans under these circumstances.”

According to Statutory Instrument 64 0f 2016, which was gazetted last week, anyone importing listed basic commodities into Zimbabwe must have a permit to do so.

When immigration officials tried to effect the new law at the weekend, there was chaos as traders resisted the move.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said the import ban on some basic commodities was a temporary measure aimed at protecting local manufacturers who were facing stiff competition from imported goods, especially those from South Africa.

He noted that the ban would be effective next month, adding that current imports should not be affected by the regulations. Banned imports include hair extensions and peanut butter.

“The regulation comes into effect next month, when the importation of some commodities in the statutory instrument will now require the granting of permits. We expect the local industry to capitalise on this and increase production. It is high time that the industry should focus on increasing availability of goods,” said Bimha. – ANA