Second hand clothes continue to flood market
By Roberta Katunga
There have always been fears that there is rampant smuggling of banned goods in Zimbabwe. But probably the biggest evidence has manifested itself on the issue of second hand clothes.
Announcing the mid-term fiscal policy review in July, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said to enhance competitiveness of the local industry, the Government was removing second hand clothing and shoes from the Open General Import Licence stating that future importation of second hand clothing would be liable to forfeiture and destruction. He said effectively the ban was to take effect from 1 September.
However, two months after the ban came into effect, most cities are actually seeing an increase of vendors selling second hand clothes. This has raised concerns that people could still be smuggling the clothes into the country but more worrying is the reluctance by authorities to take action as vendors are openly selling the second hand clothes.
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) director Mr Samuel Wadzai confirmed that second hand clothing had been finding its way into the country despite the ban. Although Mr Wadzai could not reveal how the second hand clothing found its way, he said it was the same way as any prohibited goods- smuggling.
“People are finding ways to be creative and although we can’t call it smuggling, they still find their way through the ports. As an organisation, we find it queer for Government to just ban imports as most people are surviving through the informal sector,” said Mr Wadzai.
He said he believed that they could engage Government and find common ground and have the law reversed.
“People have a tendency to ignore laws that work against them and that is what vendors are doing. We are engaging our parent ministry, Small to Medium Enterprises, to reconsider the Government position. We feel the ban on second hand clothes is unfair to us,” he said.
One vendor who plies her trade at Bulawayo’s Revenue Hall popularly known as Khothama said it was impossible for them to stop selling second hand clothes as it was their livelihood.
She said most people were making money through “bales” which are more affordable to the majority of Zimbabweans.
“Even though Government banned us from importing bales, we still find ways of smuggling them in especially at the Mozambique port of entry in haulage trucks. The market for second hand clothes is lucrative and we will not stop selling,” said the woman who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Despite the ban on second hand clothes, new selling areas are even sprouting in Bulawayo with the most recent being opposite Milton Junior School where vendors sell the clothes on a daily basis unlike at Khothama which operates only on weekends and public holidays.
Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development Deputy Minister Noveti Muponora said the law on the ban of second hand clothes was in place and that it was the duty of the law enforcement agency to enforce the law.
Deputy Minister Muponora said the Ministry of Home Affairs had to be questioned as to why vendors were still selling banned products as Government was trying to revive the manufacturing sector.
“As a ministry we condone the sale of second hand clothes. We are trying to revive the local industry so that even vendors can sell Zimbabwean products and support the Buy Zimbabwe initiative,” he said.
He said the SMEs ministry was not responsible for enforcing policies.
Zimbabwe Clothing Manufacturers Association chairman Mr Jeremy Youmans said they were surprised that the statutory instrument to ensure the ban of second hand clothes had not yet been put in place.
He said although Minister Chinamasa had made the announcement in July, there was no law in place to stop the imports from making their way into the country.
“From what we know, there is no statutory instrument in place thus effectively people are not being stopped at the border with the bales. We also expected this law to come into effect beginning of September but there is nothing as yet,” said Mr Youmans. Sunday News