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Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha says government is mulling removing some of the items that it included on the imports ban as it works to pacify local traders and affected companies.

This comes as a government committee working on the goods that South Africa wants exempted from the ban, is almost finished with its task, two weeks before Bimha meets his South African counterpart to present Zimbabwe’s position on the trade embargo.

“As we have said, SI 64 is time-bound. I also believe there are certain companies and products that should have been on that list and also there should be need to fine-tune in certain aspects because it is not a perfect lease,” Bimha told delegates at a Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) meeting in the capital, yesterday.

“And therefore this is not cast in stone; we need to continue reviewing it. We need to add some more products and remove other products, therefore, we cannot do it alone, we need your participation.”

The imports ban, invoked through Statutory Instrument (SI 64) in June by government, is a subject of negotiations with South Africa whose economy has been seriously hurt by the restrictions which the Zimbabwean neighbour says violate regional trade protocols.

The government imposed a ban on the importation of a number of basic consumer goods in June, saying this was an endeavour to not only reduce imports in the wake of worsening cash shortages, but also to stimulate local industry.

But the decision backfired spectacularly when deadly riots paralysed operations at Beitbridge Border Post early in July, with protesters burning a Zimra warehouse in the process.

Under SI 64 of 2016, the government banned the importation of coffee creamers, Camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams, baked beans, potato crisps, cereals, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, jam, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, pizza bases, yoghurts, flavoured milk, dairy juice blends, ice-creams, cultured milk and cheese, among other products.

At yesterday’s meeting, a local importer told delegates that he was in the process of retrenching half of his workforce as a result of the imports’ ban.

However, Bimha said distributing companies which had been affected by the piece of legislation could approach him with “suggestions to make the law better”.

“At the end of the day we want to improve production and create more jobs, so a situation that sees locals losing their jobs is not what we are aiming for,” he said.

Bimha said he did not understand why South African business people were demonstrating against the law, adding that on a government level, he was “on the same page” with his regional peers.

Source-Daily News

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