Car importers stuck at border …as ZIMRA ignores forex duty ‘grace period’

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By Fungayi Chimbindi

Hundreds of car importers were stranded at the country’s border posts on Friday  after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) implemented forex customs imposed on motor vehicles forthwith.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube announced the policy on Thursday and stated that although it was effective on Friday, a transitional mechanism would be put in place to cater for motor vehicles purchased on or before  November 22 2018.

He also said the exemption would be granted on the basis of recommendation by ZIMRA and approval from the Treasury.

However, such was not the situation at the border posts (mainly  Chirundu and Beitbridge) as importers were asked to pay in forex.

A ZIMRA official stationed at Beitbridge border post told this publication on condition of anonymity that they were instructed to implement what the minister had announced but there were no further instructions of exemption.

“Our bosses said the policy was with effect from today and we simply followed instructions.There has been no further instructions of an exemption. So we are asking importers to pay in foreign currency as directed by the minister,” said the official.

Efforts to obtain an official comment from ZIMRA hit a snag on Friday as both the spokesperson and Commissioner General Faith Mazani could not be reached.

This incident is reminiscent of the 2016 scenario  when the government implemented Statutory Instrument (SI), which resulted in  a duty and surtax on 112 products which included food items, building materials, furniture, toiletries in a bid to protect local industry.

After it was gazetted, the SI 64, (later changed to SI 122), many Zimbabweans were surprised to find themselves with goods they could not afford to bring into the country, as ZIMRA immediately imposed the new charges.