THE Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) has opened up on why it is embarking on a national study of the quality of imports and exports, saying this has been prompted by a public outcr
y against substandard goods.
SAZ director-general, Maureen Mutasa, said there had been numerous complaints from members of the public and local producers against poor quality goods flooding the country.
“Over the last 12-18 months there has been a public outcry on the poor quality of imported products, particularly those from Far East countries such as China,” she said.
“In line with SAZ’s mission of improving the quality and competitiveness of Zimbabwean products and safeguarding the health and safety of communities, the SAZ executive committee decided in August 2004 that a study into SAZ’s involvement in compulsory import/export quality control be carried out.”
Mutasa also said in September and October last year, the ministries of Finance and Industry and International Trade requested the SAZ to advise on the best way to address the problem of poor quality imports.
A feasibility study project document was developed and a tender floated in March.
Over the past three years, fakes and non-durable commodities have flooded the country but the SAZ has not taken any action arguing that it has no mandate.
Mutasa, however, said they were still not empowered to monitor the products that find their way into country, adding that anything they do is voluntary. She said imports started flooding the country when the country embarked on the economic reform programme in 1991.
“This opening up of the economy has over the years resulted in an influx of imported goods,” she said.
“The influx of imported goods has been enhanced in the last three years or so and in particular products came from the Far East — especially China. Although a national monitoring system is in place for imported products, the system is not extensive enough to cover the wide range of products that are coming into the country.”
She said being the national quality conotrol watchdog in Zimbabwe, SAZ has a role to play in the control of both imported and exported products.
Mutasa said it was important that SAZ did not duplicate efforts already underway by various players, but rather complement them. She could however not state who the other players were.
“Compulsory import/export quality control is a plausible way of meeting the challenges we are facing as a country,” she said.
“It has been implemented successfully by national standards bodies in other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi and is now being implemented in Botswana and Zambia which are facing similar challenges.”