Chinese dealers in Harare are involved in a blanket import scandal, which has paralysed the local manufacturing industry, while creaming off the economy as they do not pay import duty and remit revenue taxes, the Zimbabwe Independent has leant.
By Elias Mambo
Investigations by this paper shows that the Chinese are repackaging and selling blankets, which they claim to have manufactured locally when in fact they come into the country as finished products.
A survey by the Independent revealed there were several “Chinese back-door” industries, especially in the Willowvale area of Harare, which cut and bind blankets before sending them to the shops dotted around the country.
Sources in the blanket manufacturing sector said containers full of blankets are offloaded at night before the repackaging takes place.
“We have asked the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials to track the Chinese dealers, but to no avail because they continue to import the blankets,” the source said.
Sources also said the Chinese businesspersons were importing woven blankets largely through the porous Forbes Border Post in Mutare. The blankets are being fraudulently declared as woven long pile fabric, which attracts a duty of only 10%.
“The Chinese are importing blankets via the Beira route and they have been told by Zimra officials to declare their containers using a wrong tariff,” a source said this week.
“The blankets come in without bordering seams, which are then cut into regular sizes locally. A container carries 17 000kg of blankets, which should attract duty of close to US$62 900 if properly declared.
“If such a container is declared using the tariff Code 58, then it will only pay US$12 000 as import duty, prejudicing the country of US$50 000 per container.”
The Independent visited Goodnight Shop in Ardbennie (Mbare), which is one of several places where the blankets are packaged and found tailors busy sewing blanket edges while others were cutting the blankets into suitable sizes.
On being asked if the blankets are being manufactured at that ramshackle back-door industry, the Chinese owner who identified himself as Jin, said they only do binding of the blankets locally.
Through Statutory Instrument 19 of 2016 government in February prohibited the importation of blankets, second-hand clothes and shoes without import licences.
The smugglers are, however, declaring the blankets as woven fabric to avoid paying duty while maximising profits.
Blankets attract duty of 40% and an additional US$2,50 per kilogramme.