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Zimbabwe Travellers Set to Pay More Duty for Selected Imports

Okay Machisa presenting blankets and other goods at Northcot Training Institute. (Photo/Irwin Chifera)

Zimbabweans used to bringing in goods such as powdered milk, cooking oil, soap, beds and mattresses and other products, from South Africa and elsewhere, for their personal use within the $300 duty free allowance granted to travellers, will now have to pay additional amounts for these items.

These are some of the changes effected by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), according to its website, in adherence to the 2015 Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement.

Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the changes in his July fiscal policy review, as part of a raft of measures aimed at boosting government's dwindling coffers and reduce the country's widening trade deficit.

In his address to parliament, Chinamasa also said he expected the measures to enhance competitiveness of the local industry, currently facing stiff competition from imports that have flooded the local market.

Some economists said ZIMRA's move to charge customs duty on luxury goods being brought into the country will help improve the country’s revenue inflows and protect struggling industries from external competition.

However, Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said though the move was good, local companies do not have the capacity to produce enough to satisfy local demand.

Furthermore Chitambara said the move by ZIMRA may fuel smuggling and corruption due to demand. The $300 duty allowance granted to bonafide travellers for their personal use, is divided into two categories, namely total rebate and partial rebate subject to prescribed conditions.

“That’s what happens the world over when a government decides to come up with controls,” said Chitambara.

He added that consumers will try to look and find ways and means of circumventing these controls.

Chitambara suggested that the only way to address the problems is to deal ruthlessly with issues of competitiveness so that the economy becomes competitive, adding the route the government has taken is short-term.

Other items no longer included in the $300 duty free allowance, as stated by ZIMRA, are:

  • Goods which are incorrectly declared;
  • Goods which are imported for resale or commercial purposes;
  • Alcoholic beverages in excess of five liters per traveller of which two litres may be spirits;
  • Goods which are imported by any member of the crew of an aircraft, ship or vehicle arriving from outside Zimbabwe;
  • Stoves, refrigerators, and blankets;
  • Cooking oil and laundry bar soap;
  • Beds and mattresses;
  • Flour, maize meal, sugar, meat, fish, powdered milk, yoghurts, cheese, eggs, corn puffs, jam and honey.
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