South African exports will be adversely affected by a unilateral Zimbabwean government decision to choke off trade by introducing draconian restrictive measures, the Department of Trade and Industry conceded on Sunday.
The measures included import bans, surcharges, increases in duties, the requirement for import permits and other forms of restrictions that had negative implications for intra-regional trade, spokesman Sidwell Medupe said.
Zimbabwe has implemented the trade restrictions, saying they are necessary to support the development of its local industries and relieve pressure brought on by “economic sanctions”, which it claimed had led to the government not being able to pay its workers.
However, the Department of Trade and Industry expressed concern on Sunday at the restrictive measures, saying their adverse effect on South African exporters could not be underestimated.
At a recent meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) committee of trade ministers, SA and Zimbabwe were asked to report on the implications of the measures.
"On behalf of the South African government, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has been engaging the Zimbabwean government bilaterally — and through the SADC structures — to find an amicable solution that is in accordance with Zimbabwe’s obligations of the SADC protocol on trade, while at the same time being sensitive to Zimbabwe’s industrial development and balance-of-payments challenges," Medupe said.
Products on the import ban list include: cosmetics, cereals, coffee creamer, mayonnaise, cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, second-hand tyres, iron and steel products, furniture and woven cotton fabrics.
Zimbabwe was hit by a crippling public servants’ strike and violent protests, which led to the closure of businesses and the country’s transport system.
In the wake of the protests, the government reportedly made an about-turn on the payment of teachers’ and nurses’ salaries.
The payment of their delayed June salaries had been deferred to mid-July, but the protests forced the government’s hand and it paid teachers on Thursday. Health sector workers were due to receive their salaries on Friday.
The state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper quoted Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo saying: "We have gathered from our intelligence that there was involvement of Western embassies in all these disturbances … taking place."
He reportedly said evidence showed that the French embassy in Harare and other embassies were "part of this plot".
According to AFP, Information Minister Christopher Mushowe warned on Sunday that the authorities were tracking anyone who was "abusing" social media to cause unrest in Zimbabwe.