SA government takes a stand for exporters to Zimbabwe
SA WILL adopt a case-by-case approach in its bid to resolve an imports ban dispute with Zimbabwe.
"We cannot accept the way our exporters are being treated," Department of Trade and Industry director-general Lionel October said on Thursday.
"Zimbabwe in is breach of Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol. The issue will be taken up at a technical level. We have already sent the list of items to Zimbabwe. It will also be raised at Cabinet, as well as bilateral forums," he said.
Zimbabwe recently imposed a unilateral ban on South African imports, and extra tax duties on exporters, claiming the restrictions were intended to protect local industries and prevent the country becoming a "supermarket economy".
October on Thursday said Minister Rob Davies and his Zimbabwean counterpart would meet soon to smooth out the dispute. Davies had also taken the issue to Cabinet level, October said.
A technical team from the Department of Trade and Industry was travelling to Zimbabwe with a list of more than 100 items at the centre of the trade impasse. It would go through the list with its Zimbabwean counterparts and hoped to reach consensus on which of the items could "legitimately" be kept out of Zimbabwe.
October said this was a long-standing issue, and one which was raised during Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s state visit to SA in 2015.
The imports ban faces opposition in Zimbabwe itself and was one of the reasons cited for last week’s mass stayaway, and similar protest action planned for this week.
On the list of restricted items are camphor cream, body creams, petroleum jellies, baked beans, potato crisps, bottled water, coffee creamers, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, canned fruit, cheese and many other items.
October said that where there was a legitimate case for localisation in Zimbabwe, SA would drop items on the list. But where SA knew Zimbabwe had no local capacity and was importing products from elsewhere, SA would stake its claim on imports.
"We have said that, where there is local capacity, we have no problem with Zimbabwe," he said.
The dispute comes as SA establishes a new Africa Trade Unit (the erstwhile Africa Export Council), whose sole mission will be to promote trade on the continent. Davies was to unveil the initiative on Friday in Pretoria.
October said SA generated R300bn in revenue from its exports to other African countries. However, through Africa Trade SA, the country wanted to change the nature of its trade with its continental peers.
"You will remember that SA’s trade balance with the rest the continent is skewed in our favour. Barring the oil we get from Angola and Nigeria, there is little else we get from the continent. We want to change that by promoting intra-regional trade," said October.
A dedicated team within the department would work with South African companies to achieve this objective, he said. "We also want to procure goods from our continental partners, and make sure that trade is not just one-way traffic from SA."
SA was also looking to do away with its Big Brother image as a dumper of goods on the continent, October.