THE government, has for the second time in eight years, mooted the idea of banning second hand car imports, an idea that is not fully thought out and needs to be dropped in its infancy.
While this time the government says the importation of second hand cars will be phased out over a period of time, it is important to point out that this is tantamount to dealing with symptoms rather than the disease and its causes.
If the government is serious about saving foreign currency by stopping the importation of second hand vehicles, then the authorities should put their money where their mouths are and stop importing expensive vehicles, which are driven by ministers and legislators.
In that regard, the government should make it a policy that it only buys vehicles from local assemblers of cars and bars public officials from buying from other producers.
This way, the government would have supported the local industry in the biggest possible way, as the public sector is the biggest employer and single largest purchaser of vehicles.
However, we are not holding our breath, as the country’s rulers have a penchant for expensive European and Japanese cars, which the rest of the country can only dream about.
Government authorities only seem to want to be the only ones who are able to afford cars, while the rest of the country has to look on in envy.
Secondly, it is important for the government to know that every Zimbabwean desires to drive a new car, but its is beyond their pockets.
Instead of rushing to ban imports, the government must ensure that there is cheap and readily available financing for new vehicles, which will make imports less appealing.
Interest rates on loans and financing for cars is exorbitant and without second hand cars, most Zimbabweans could never dream of driving nor owning vehicles.
Thus, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha and his colleagues in government should not be preoccupied with banning imports, but ensuring that local products are available and affordable.
We saw it with Statutory 64 of 2016, which banned the importation of several products with local equivalents, which was supposed to protect Zimbabwean industries and make local products more affordable, but had disastrous consequences, which the government is too ashamed to admit.
Since the SI was put in place, prices of basics have soared and local industry’s capacity utilisation has declined drastically.
The simple message is that protectionism does not work and the government needs to be more innovative if it is to grow the local car industry.