ZIMBABWE says it will ban second hand vehicle imports in order to “save lives and protect the environment”.
Environment Minister Francis Nhema said the ban would target all vehicles which are five or more years old, as well as vehicles which don’t pass a set carbon emissions threshold.
“A majority of these cars have been banned on the roads in their countries of origin. They are being dumped in Zimbabwe and it is up to us to aggressively stand up against exploitation. We have a duty to save lives, protect ourselves and our environment,” Nhema said on Tuesday.
The ban would hit hard Zimbabwe’s motor industry which consists mainly second hand car dealerships, while denying the country millions of dollars in lost taxes.
Ministers however believe the ban could shore up the local car manufacturing industry which is steadily increasing production after a decade-long economic crisis.
Nhema said most second hand vehicle imports into Zimbabwe were of Japanese origin. Japan imposes an emissions standard forcing vehicle owners to replace old vehicles with newer, cleaner models or retrofit old vehicles with approved nitrogen oxide control devices.
Closer to home in South Africa, the government banned all imports of second hand vehicles except in exceptional circumstances. The regulations are waived for returning residents and work permit holders settling in the country for the first time.
Nhema gave no indication when the ban would become effective. He also could not give the figures of the pollution threshold offhand.
“We are working on modalities to enact a law that we will enforce through the Environmental Management Agency. We aim to stop these cars at the ports of entry. Every car that exceeds the permitted level of exhaust emissions will not enter our borders,” he said.
An official from the Zimbabwe Inland Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) said the agency was clearing 400 vehicles – mainly second hand imports – daily.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not cleared to talk to reporters, said Toyota was the most imported brand.
He added: “This proposed ban doesn’t make much sense. Many poor Zimbabweans rely on these used cars.
“The Willovale assembly plant has stopped putting together affordable models like the Mazda 323s and rustlers and are now focusing on the expensive BT50 and Mazda 3 models.”
The official said a ban would also hit the government hard as substantial revenue would be lost from the duty paid on imports. “Nearly 105 percent of the value of the cars is being collected in duty, so you can see why this could prove costly.”
Bulawayo car dealer Buzile Nkiwane attacked the proposed regulations, calling them “rash”.
“Wide consultations have to be made before such a rash decision is taken. Most of the cars that we sell were made between 2000 and 2006,” said Nkiwane of General Car Dealers.
“This ban will destroy our industry because cars that are less than five years old would be too expensive for our customers. These cars are better than most of our locally assembled cars, in terms of exhaust emissions.”
The Environmental Management Agency’s director, Aaron Chagona, said they were waiting for a written directive from the ministry to start work on enforcing the ban.