South Africa wants Zimbabwe’s economy and manufacturing capacity to grow, and the import restrictions Harare has introduced will help achieve this, a Cabinet minister in Tshwane has said.
In an interview with Zimbabwe Newspapers’ television project in Johannesburg last week, South Africa’s Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said such restrictions were “necessary” to spur domestic production and job-creation.
On Friday, Comesa chief executive Mr George Lipimile had weighed into the debate on Zimbabwe’s import controls saying they had no effect on trade in the bloc, which is a part of the Grand Tripartite Free Trade Area along with Sadc and the East African Community.
Outlining her country’s own import regulations, Minister Zulu said Zimbabwe could not continue consuming without manufacturing “for the rest of its life”.
South Africa and Zimbabwe, she implored, should engage continually on mutual interests.
That conversation with Minister Zulu figures in the content the Zimpapers television project is creating ahead of its launch.
The minister said, “(South Africa has similar restrictions). You know why? Every country wants to create jobs. At the end of the day, it is about ensuring job-creation and economic development, and that we do not end up with a whole lot of cheap products from different places that make it difficult for our own manufacturing sector to grow.
“Zimbabwe needs its manufacturing sector to grow, too, so does every other country. We are inter-dependent. Restrictions are necessary, in my view. Look; we have Chinese imports flooding South Africa. Where are the jobs being created? We should ask ourselves that question.
“The jobs are created somewhere else. As a country, we cannot afford to be consumers only, neither can Zimbabwe – for the rest of its life — just consume without ensuring jobs are being created at home.”
Minister Zulu said while selective import restrictions were important, it was equally crucial to consider the provisions of standing agreements/ protocols.
“At the level of our bilateral relations, what do we agree upon? What pushes us into agreements? Of course, the South African economy is much bigger, and most people would complain that it is big and, therefore, South Africa must also enable others to grow.
“But we also can’t afford not to grow our economy because who are we going to be feeding? Our people are knocking on our door on a day-to-day basis.
‘‘They want jobs, housing, education, and those things cannot be served if our economy is not growing.”
She continued: “The growth of Zimbabwe and its manufacturing sector is of interest to South Africa. And it should also be of interest to Zimbabwe where South Africa can produce things that can be sold there.
“I’m conscious of the fact that many people, especially in the region, complain that there is unfairness as trade is tilted in South Africa’s favour. Zimbabwe also needs to see its product trade flow into South Africa and the rest of the region.”
Zimbabwe introduced Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 to restrict importation of goods that local manufacturers can produce; such baked beans, peanut butter, cheese, fertilisers, shoe polish, body creams, coffee creamers, second-hand tyres and hardware material.
Angola adopted similar restrictions to protect and grow its manufacturing base after 27 years of civil war; while South Africa has the “Proudly South African” campaign, which is similar to “Buy Zimbabwe”, to advocate domestic product purchases.
Since cooking oil was struck off Zimbabwe’s import catalogue in 2014, local brands now occupy 95 percent of supermarket shelf space, a huge leap from 15 percent. The price has also declined from roughly US$4,20 for two litres to about US$2,60. sunday mail