Biti admitted at a news conference in Harare yesterday that he had come
under withering pressure from “various stakeholders” after publication of
the new import tariff regime in the January 14 edition of the Daily News.
The new tax regime came into force on January 1, 2012.
The 25 percent surtax was imposed across the entire range of goods from
basics to luxuries, with the new import regime affecting almost everything
from second-hand vehicles to food, even beer and cigarettes.
The new duty regime was announced in the 2012 national budget presented by
Biti to Parliament in November last year as a measure to support increased
domestic production and level the playing field with regards to some of the
When the new tariff regime was gazetted last week by the Zimbabwe Revenue
Authority, they torched a storm, which has forced the minister into a
“Concerns have been raised by stakeholders over some of the tariff measures
government implemented from the 1st of January 2012,” Biti told reporters
“Here there are two things. First is the expanse of those tariffs, the
expanse of the goods that are affected by those tariffs, there have been
concerns about those.”
The 25 percent surtax covers literally everything from beauty products to
electrical household appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, cookers and
other reception apparatus for TVs.
The surtax more importantly affects a wide array of basic foodstuffs such as
fresh as well as frozen whole chickens, frozen cuts and offal, milk and
cream, yoghurt, fermented milk, buttermilk, cheese, bird’s eggs, potatoes,
tomatoes, onions and shallots, garlic, carrots and turnips, mixtures of
vegetables, peas, beans, sausages, uncooked pasta, jams, fruit jellies,
marmalades, soup and broth preparations, sweet biscuits, tomato ketchup and
other tomato sauces.
The new regime also affected alcoholic beverages such as malt beer, wine,
ciders, brandy, whiskey, vodka, spirits as well as Virginia flue-cured
tobacco and burley tobacco.
Biti said he had taken heed of concerns from economists and other
stakeholders that the hike will trigger a massive inflation surge and that
it could ignite shortages of basics given depressed local supply side
“We have listened to the way they are affecting basic commodities and so
forth,” Biti said.
The tough-talking minister blasted the manner in which the new tariff
measures were being implemented by tax collector Zimra.
“We have women being asked to put on new shoes, bags being opened (at the
border) and so forth. We don’t accept that, it is not the law,” Biti said.
“Public servants, parastatals, have got a duty to respect the public; they
have got a duty to respect citizens of this country. We will not accept
The inhuman treatment of travellers by Zimra officials at several border
posts including Harare International Airport was exposed by the Daily News
through a series of articles.
Biti admitted there was overwhelming national condemnation of the 25 percent
hike in surtax of second-hand cars and basics.
“Given the huge representations that have been made to us as a ministry, we
have embarked on the process of stakeholder consultation so that we review
or adjust those statutory instruments, the appropriate measures to review,
and some of the measures therefore will be instituted in the next few weeks
or few days if we are lucky,” Biti said.
“But I want to appeal to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, I want to appeal to
all government bodies that provides services to the people whether it’s the
passport office, whether it’s the death certificate office, whether its VAT,
the government is there to serve the public, public servants are there to
serve and not to be islands of fascism where we harass people and so forth.
“So we don’t accept what certain officials at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
have been doing.”
Biti said he had received several complaints from trans-border traders and
other stakeholders of intrusive searches and other bizarre methods of
enforcing his new regulations at the border.
“That is not the policy of this ministry, that is not the policy of this
government,” he said. “The long and short of it is that we will review and
adjust following a process of consultation. We will make announcements
through the relevant statutory instrument.”
Biti has also introduced a controversial ban of imports of second-hand
underwear that has also attracted massive criticism.