Harare – President Robert Mugabe’s government says South African businesses should not demonstrate against policy measures implemented by Zimbabwe to contain imports of finished goods and commodities into the ailing southern African country.
Despite this, Mugabe’s Zanu PF government has implemented import restrictions that sparked protests in Beitbridge last week. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha said by phone on Monday that the measures will stay in place for now.
“I am saying that when you see business people in a country demonstrating about a decision done in a country that is not theirs, this is an indication that they have now looked to survive on Zimbabwe,” Bimha told Fin24.
Zimbabwean retailers and wholesalers are mostly reliant on imports from South Africa, which has become the country’s major trade partner. Zimbabwe mainly exports platinum, gold, tobacco and tea as most of its industry and manufacturing is struggling.
“Why demonstrate about developments in another country? It’s our country and we are in a different situation,” added Bimha.
Other government sources said on Monday that the government did however felt the heat from protests rolled out last week over the ban on some imports.
Officials insist that the policy on imports is meant to curtail imports for commercial purposes, adding that goods imported for personal use would not be restricted.
Bloomberg quoted Sidwell Medupe, a spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, as saying minister Rob Davies is engaging the regional Sadc bloc on Zimbabwe’s new policies. It has also emerged that manufacturers in Zimbabwe advocated for the imposition of the restrictions as they were facing intense competition from imports.
“The minister is engaging through Sadc structures and in his capacity with his counterparts,” for the department, Medupe was quoted saying.
“Engagements are still at an early stage. We hope that an amicable solution will be found,” Medupe added.
However, Bimha said any agreements on trade and investment promotion signed under Sadc and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa have provisions that take into account “the situations” of other countries.
“Our finance institutions cannot get money to give to the private sector. We are not on the same footing. Any agreement under Sadc has provision for the situations of individual countries,” Bimha further stated.
Mugabe has been under pressure over the past week from protesters demonstrating against his continued stay in power, government and police corruption and the new import measures.
On Thursday last week, protest organisers presented Mugabe with an ultimatum to address the current economic problems by the end of August.