MUTARE – Informal traders plying who sell second hand clothes at Sakubva Musika have poured scorn at The Minister of Finance and Economic Development stance to ban second hand clothes as an insensitive move.
Minister Patrick Chinamasa released a midterm review with an outlook of boosting competitiveness of local products in the gloom of reduced anticipated GDP growth rate.
Chinamasa made a raft of proposals, including increased surtax on imported vehicles, introduction of church taxes, as well as a ban of second hand clothes and shoe imports in a move to boost dwindling revenue inflows.
As he made these proposals Chinamasa also reviewed downwards the GDP forecasted to grow by 3.2% down by 1.5% due to poor agricultural performance.
As part of the raft of measures designed to stimulate competitiveness of the local clothing industry Chinamasa placed a ban on second hand clothes and shoe imports which have flooded local market.
The ban is effective from 1 September 2015.
He said that the overall performances of the first half indicated modest gains in some sectors of the economy while overall the economy declined.
“Overall performance during the first half of the year indicates some modest growth, particularly in the sectors of mining, manufacturing, tourism, construction, finances as well as public services.
“However, their contribution to the original growth projection of 3.2% is being weighed down by the drought induced underperformance of agriculture,” he said.
Chinamasa also said there is an urgent need to redress investment bottlenecks currently bedevilling the economy to promote investment.
“We also need to urgently tackle the bureaucratic hurdles that are hindering private sector growth, leading to low rankings in the ease of doing business indices,” he said, adding that, “…our constrained fiscal space is now threatening the social and infrastructural development objectives outlined in our economic blueprint, Zim Asset.
We cannot meaningfully deliver development to the electorate with the current Budget structure.”
However the decision to ban trading of second hand clothing has been met with disbelief by traders specialising in selling the clothes which are imported from Mozambique.
Most of the second hand goods have been smuggled through the porous Mozambique/Zimbabwe border as the current import duty regime was prohibitive.
These imports had created a vibrant market niche of affordable clothing in most towns and cities in Zimbabwe, as locally made clothes were unaffordable to most citizens who are living below the poverty datum line.
However traders of second hand clothing have come out guns blazing against this ‘insensitive’ move.
One such vendor Liberty Marange said this ban was inconsiderate of the plight of the unemployed irking out a living from such merchandise.
He said government should provide alternative means before closing the only door available to poor residents.
“Where does government expect us to get money when they have closed the only avenue we have to survive? Hatina mabasa apa vakatidzinga mu street now they ban our source of livelihood. That’s very insensitive to say the least,” he said.
Takesure Mhlanga who has been selling these second hand clothes since 2001 said government must create jobs for people.
He said informal trading was an alternative forced on him by the economic hardships.
“When I started selling in 2001 it was because I could not find a job now it’s even worse.
“Government should just create jobs and all these people will vacate the streets. Tinotodawo mabasa but we can’t find them,” he said.
A lecturer at Africa University’s Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance Dr Solomon Mungure said government should make consultations before issuing statements.
He said government should be alive to the plight of the poor rather than to oppress the vulnerable.
“Government should just come up with solutions to arrest the economy not to downtrod on the most vulnerable members of society.
“It’s the same government which promised people jobs which then turns a blind the plight of ordinary members of society,” he said.
Local captains of industry said while this was a bold move by government there should be a solid plan to deal with the porous borders where these second hand goods are smuggled through.
Confederations of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Vice President Mr Henry Nemaire said government should also provide a viable means of ensuring this policy can be implemented on the ground.
He was however sceptical on the capacity of the local industry to be able to satisfy local demand amid a generally low capacity utilization across the board.
“This is a bold move by government however I don’t know if the local clothing industry has the capacity to meet local demand however it also has implications with regards to the high levels of employment.
Are people going to afford the local products?
“Also government should come up with a plan to ensure the leaky borders are sealed because that has been the main problem of these leaky borders mainly because of corruption.
“Government has not been getting revenue because the second hand bales were just smuggled into the country,” he said.