MUTARE – Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has scoffed at the recent import restriction protests that rocked Beitbridge Border Post in which a warehouse was torched and 72 people were arrested as ‘‘petty;’ while deriding local protestors as ‘‘dim-wits’’.
Officially opening the Sixth Buy Local Summit in Mutare this week Mnangagwa played down the protests which were triggered by removal of basic goods from the Open General Import Licence list which trade experts say is in violation of international trade protocols.
“When the ministry (of Industry and Commerce) gazetted Statutory Instrument 64 (of 2016) there were some petty riots at the border.
“But they did not start on this side, they began on the other side…the business community in Musina were saying you Zimbabweans why stop coming across to buy from us? We will collapse if you stop… when they felt they needed to be heard they began ferrying people across saying Zimbabweans wake up, you must spend your money across, so some Zimbabweans who are dimwits listened,” Mnangagwa said.
South Africa contributed 71 percent of all the country’s import in 2015 and stands to be the biggest loser in the face of the import restrictions.
While acknowledging that restrictions were not sustainable and would potentially shut the country off the global market, Mnangagwa however, said the move was just a stopgap measure to give local manufactures momentary respite to foreign competition.
Mnangagwa’s statements dovetail with what President Robert Mugabe said on Friday when he curiously told striking government workers that they are failing to understand government policies.
“You are hearing many in government complaining that they are not being paid on time that is true, but we should remember that we are yet to shake off some problems, we are not yet a developed nation. We have sanctions, the Americans have not removed them and the Europeans only partially removed them.
“We use the US dollar and it is not printed here but in America,” said Mugabe.
Mugabe’s opponents accuse him of authoring the country’s problems and failing to deal with corruption which has sucked in most of his closest allies.
“Tirikuti inhamo yemazuva ano chete, (We will overcome these challenges), we don’t want doctors, nurses, and teachers to strike, they are not being told that they will not get their salaries but those are postponements but they don’t understand,” said the former school teacher.
Academic and government economic advisor Gift Mugano however, said the South African business community was justified to be aggrieved because the country signed regional and international free trade agreements.
“We have signed Sadc free trade agreements; we know what it means to be in free trade agreements. It means there is no protectionism…SI 64 in my view will cause a lot of problems,” Mugano told the summit.
He said even if there was room for excerption by distressed economies that should have been sought first before the enactment of the restrictive order.
“In the home, even if a child is entitled to have food it is still expected to either seek the guardians’ permission or in the least communicate its intended actions before hand,” Mugano said.
He however, said the import restrictions were a violation of international trade protocols in particular chapter 11 of the world trade agreement.
“The time for controls is over…but we need to look at the policy space provided by the world trade organisation,” Mugano noted.-Dailynews