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Revenue collector tightens screws on transit vehicles in Zimbabwe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has amended customs regulations in a bid to improve the management of transit cargo, with heavy fines being imposed on people who flout the transportation procedures.

In a statement Thursday, revenue collector, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), said Section 60 of the Customs and Excise (General) Regulations published in 2001 had now been amended under Statutory Instrument 113 of 2017 to provide better management and monitoring of transit cargo.

According to the new legislation, containers and vehicles conveying goods through Zimbabwe shall not be opened while in the country and any seals or electronic seals which are found or placed on the containers and vehicles shall not be broken or tampered with.

“Where seals are tampered with, lost or there is unauthorized breaking of electronic seals placed on a road vehicle, the offender shall be liable to a penalty of 1,300 U.S. dollars,” the statement said.

Transporters shall also be liable to a penalty of 2,000 dollars for diversion from the route specified by the Commissioner General of ZIMRA.

ZIMRA started using the new system on Jan. 2, 2017 prior to it being commissioned by Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa in May under the theme: “curbing smuggling and transit fraud”.

The Electronic Cargo Tracking System involves the use of electronic sealing devices, which are put on transit cargo at the port of entry.

It uses geo-fencing technology and is supported by Google Maps to ensure the accuracy of location and movement of transit cargo, as the cargo is monitored in real time up to the point of exit.

The electronic sealing devices send an alarm to the system’s control room on any violations, which include seal tampering, seal opening and incidents of geo-fence violations.

Zimbabwe is a transit hub, catering for northbound and southbound transit traffic through its ports of entry and exit. The country is a gateway to East and Southern African countries and serves Zambia, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, among other countries.

The Office of the President and Cabinet has said transit cargo entries had declined by more than 60 percent by June as the country tightened its screws on transit fraud.

Prior to the new system, some transporters would enter the country purporting to be delivering goods to other countries but would dump them in Zimbabwe.

In some cases, fuel would be dumped in the country and the tankers would proceed to the border laden with water.

ZIMRA also said the transit period of three days for cargo would include weekends and public holidays.



Zimbabwe crafting law to deter cash sellers

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Wednesday the Zimbabwean government is crafting legislation to enable jail sentences to be imposed on individuals caught selling cash at a premium to desperate people, state-run news agency New Ziana reported.

Zimbabwe is battling a cash crisis mainly caused by hoarding and externalization of the main trading and circulating currency, the U.S. dollar.

The cash shortage has resulted in the re-emergence of the black market for foreign currency.

Dealers on the parallel market buy U.S. dollars at a premium of up to 30 percent for bank transfers.

On a cash-to-cash exchange basis, 100 U.S. dollars earns the seller 108 bond notes, despite the fact that the U.S. dollar and the surrogate currency officially trade at par.

The central bank introduced bond notes last year to try and alleviate the cash crunch.

While speaking in parliament, Chinamasa said the Banking Act only allows the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to impose penalties on offenders, which he deemed not sufficient to deter would-be offenders.

“At the moment, we do not have a law that sends offenders to jail, we only have one that says offenders are penalized.

“We agreed in cabinet that we should have that law in place. We are now drafting the amendments because at the moment the law that we have under the Banking Act allows the RBZ to impose penalties on offenders,” Chinamasa said.


Prices of basic commodities shoot up as forex shortages persist in Zimbabwe

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Prices of basic commodities are rising steadily in the shops as foreign currency shortages persist and suppliers are forced to get the elusive U.S. dollar from the black market at high premiums.

A middle level manager with one of the country’s leading retail chains told Xinhua Wednesday that suppliers were increasing their prices citing higher costs in obtaining especially foreign goods.

“The suppliers are paying premiums to keep the supply chain open and they have no choice but to pass on the cost to us. We, in turn, try to maintain a 10 percent profit margin on the supplied goods, hence we also do mark ups on their prices,” he said.

Economist Clemence Machadu said the U.S. dollar supply continued to be erratic through various leakages such as rising net imports, smuggling and as a result of people holding it for speculative purposes.

Machadu said the shortage of foreign currency had led to the proliferation of a thriving black market where the U.S. dollar was being rationed at high premiums.

“Some desperate importers of finished goods and raw materials have been left with no option but to get the greenback on the parallel market. It’s do or die for local companies, otherwise they go bust if they don’t get adequate forex to manage their operations,” he added.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers marketing and stakeholder relations director Alois Burutsa told The Herald Business that his organization believed that the prices were going up because some retailers were acquiring foreign currency from the black market.

The organization had since requested for foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), he said.

“The RBZ has asked us to compile our forex requirements and we are still in that process although we have submitted some requests for forex,” he said.

Shopper Brian Chitiyo said he had watched the prices going up and was adjusting his budget and re-prioritizing goods to purchase for the home.

“I am doing away with certain luxuries such as breakfast cereals. My family is till comfortable having maize porridge and peanut butter,” he said.

Machadu said many people now preferred saving their U.S. dollars cash at home to depositing it with their banks.

“Keeping it in the bank while the premiums of getting it out are rising means that they will lose out. So the participation of members of the public in purchasing U.S. dollars and holding them as a reliable store of value is also contributing to the high demand for the greenback that is also causing more shortages and rising premiums,” Machadu said.

He said a sustainable solution lay in managing excessive government expenditure and rising imports and increasing surveillance on the borders to avert smuggling of goods.

“The country is still importing things that we have in abundance; for instance maize worth 101 million dollars was imported between January and July, yet there is plenty of maize locally. So there should be enhanced scrutiny on what is being imported in order to manage greenback leakages,” he suggested.

Looking at the year on year trade deficit for the past few months, he said that for the month of June it rose 4.9 percent to 230.2 million dollars, and in July, it rose 18.23 percent to 217.9 million dollars - mainly on account of rising imports.

“There is also need to deal with externalization of the greenback. Zimbabwe is being used by some people as a field to harvest U.S. dollars that are then smuggled to other countries where there are stable economic fundamentals for doing business,” Machadu said.

A number of people have been arrested over the years for allegedly externalizing foreign currency.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has also effected a tracking system to monitor vehicles purporting to be in transit to other countries, yet they dump goods in the country without paying duty.

Machadu said while short term measures like increasing surveillance on cash smuggling could be implemented, a sustainable solution lay in making sure that the country had friendly policies that attracted investment, as well as more foreign loans and other lines of credit.


Zimbabwe president calls for more multilateralism to solve pressing global issues

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Robert Gabriel Mugabe on Thursday called for deeper cooperation and more multilateralism among countries in order to reach the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mugabe told the United Nations General Assembly that the current global development agenda differs in significant ways from all those that preceded it as “it is ambitious, revolutionary, transformative, universal, and encompassing every single facet of human life.”

That is why the agenda requires reinforced solidarity, partnerships and cooperation, according to Mugabe.

On equality, Mugabe said that deeper international cooperation and genuine reform of the existing inequitable international system are necessary in the process to halt or reverse the persistent widening gap between the rich and the poor among the nations.

“The current system is inherently structured to enrich a few and impoverish the many. It cannot, therefore, deliver on a key aspiration and watchword objective of the 2030 Agenda, that of leaving no-one behind,” he said.

Talking about climate change, Mugabe urged the delegates to acknowledge the present reality and assess its effects and impacts.

He said that climate change is global and dealing with the issue requires global efforts.

“We cannot remain silent when a major economic power in the world, or any other state for that matter, decides to abandon the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and thus put our countries at further risk of the effects of climate change such as more frequent and severe droughts,” said Mugabe.

The General Assembly of the United Nations kicked off its annual general debate on Tuesday, with heads of state and government representatives gathering at the UN headquarters to present their views about pressing world issues.



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