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GOVERNMENT ban on the importation of some foreign products into the country seems to be failing as cases of smuggling continue to surge along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border with traders in Mutare reporting “brisk business”.

Local traders continue to defy government directive to buy local products as they opt to smuggle cheaper and affordable goods from Mozambique.

Government recently enacted Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 prohibiting the importation of goods such as groceries from entering the country. Only those granted a special import licence can bring in certain goods, according to the new law. Announcing the law, the minister of industry, Mike Bimha, said the move was meant to protect local industries against unfair competition from cheap imports. But many people thought the law was unfair as it forced them to abandon their businesses and buy from local shops owned by senior government officials.

But that is not the case in Mutare where, despite the ban, most tuck-shops in the eastern border city are now filled with Mozambican products. Good examples are Coca Cola products, washing soap and cooking oil.

Local retail outlets are selling a 2 litre Coke from Mutare Bottling at $2.25 while the same smuggled Coke is being sold for $1 in tuck shops, mostly in the high density areas. While a locally packed 300ml bottle of soft drink is being sold for 50c in supermarkets, street vendors sell a 350ml from Mozambique for $0.40.

“There is nothing we can do because groceries are now expensive in Zimbabwe. I would rather cross into Mozambique and bring back my stuff at night. That way, I can save,” said Maxwell Tsunga of Dangamvura.

Another local resident, Miriam Maruma, 34, said they were taking advantage of the Mozambican Meticals (MT) which was slumping against the US dollar. The MT is currently trading at US$1-75 Moz (MT).

“The cost of living in Zimbabwe is high as compared to Mozambique. I only need $50 to buy groceries which may cost me $130 in Zimbabwe. They should not have banned the goods because the country is not producing anything yet,” said Maruma who was carrying a case of Coca Cola drinks near Machipanda border.

Most tuck shop owners said they were making a brisk business this summer as locals were opting for the Mozambican Coca Cola products. They, however, said their business was being disturbed by police officers who routinely raid them.

In an confirmed incident, three locals were, last week, arrested when they were caught in possession of 3951x 2 litres of soft drinks with a value of around $7 000 along Mutare- Harare highway road.

Calington Madondo,31, of 709 Area 13 Dangamvura, Catherine Ziyadhini,33, of 497 Forbes Waterfalls Harare and John Sithole,26, of 163 Dangamvura Mutare were arrested at 42 km peg along Mutare-Harare highway on their way from Mozambique.

Police received a tip off that the three were transporting smuggled drinks from Mozambique. Officers then set up a road and an around 2300hours, the three were arrested aboard a Hino motor vehicle registered ADJ 1971 which was being driven by Madondo. A search was conducted and 3951x 2 litres of Coca Cola and Fanta drinks were recovered.

Manicaland police spokesperson, Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa, confirmed that cases of smuggling were on the surge.

Madondo and Sithole denied the charges while Ziyadhini was fined $200 by courts.

Source-New Zimbabwe

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