Zimbabwe tightens border controls on imported goods

ZIMBABWE has introduced custom-control measures aimed at reducing the inflow of smuggled and inferior goods, and boosting its revenue from customs duty.

A truck and trailer loaded with 30 tons of maize drives into a Beitbridge customs and immigration control point on the South African border with Zimbabwe. File picture: REUTERS

Goods being exported to Zimbabwe will have to undergo consignment verification from May 16.

The government’s customs officials are also tightening up inspections at the Beitbridge border post to stem the flow of cheap, illegal goods, which Zimbabwean companies blame for their financial woes.

Executive chairman of the European Union Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Africa Stefan Sakoschek said on Thursday that “the general idea is for Zimbabwe to protect its borders from substandard goods, as well as from undervaluation”.

Mr Sakoschek said the consignment-based conformity assessment programme fell within the framework of the World Trade Organisation’s technical barriers to trade as well as the regulations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Exporters and clearing agents have been informed of the new consignment verification measures, which will ensure conformity to standards and the value of goods declared.

A certificate will be issued for the consignments for presentation to customs officials on arrival in Zimbabwe.

Goods without a certificate will be refused entry.

Targeted products include food and agricultural goods, building and civil engineering products, timber and timber products, petroleum and fuel, packaging materials, electrical and electronic appliances, body care products, automotive and transportation goods, clothing and textiles, engineering equipment, mechanical appliances and toys.

Trade Law Chambers director Rian Geldenhuys said the pre-shipment verification process would entail additional costs but should not contribute to further delays in shipment. Consignment verification was widely practised especially in developing countries as a way to ensure the collection of customs duty revenue, Mr Geldenhuys said.

“Underinvoicing is a huge problem throughout the world, especially least developed and developing countries which Zimbabwe is one of,” he said.

Trade Law Centre researcher Willemien Viljoen also said the assessments would entail additional costs.

Much of the effect would depend on how the conformity assessments were implemented and the standards that would be applied, Ms Viljoen said.

The Zimbabwean government has appointed well-recognised French company Bureau Veritas as the conformity assessment company for verification purposes, and has given the assurance that “compliant exporters will be able to benefit from fast-track procedures reducing systematic intervention on their frequent exports to Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha was quoted by the Zimbabwean press as saying that Zimbabwe was being “flooded with sub-standard imports which do not meet quality, safety, health and environmental standards”.

These goods had a negative effect on the country’s economic development and the competitiveness of its industries, Mr Bimha said.

In terms of its four-year agreement with Bureau Veritas the Zimbabwean government will receive monthly royalty fees equivalent to 5% of all monies received for its services.

This arrangement will eventually lapse when the Zimbabwe Standards Regulatory Authority is established to monitor and control imports, exports and local goods to ensure compliance with quality, health, safety and environmental standards.

Bureau Veritas operates in 140 countries and offers pre-shipment services to SA, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. 

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