ZIMBABWE on Wednesday this week woke up to read about Statutory Instrument (SI) 281 of 2020: the Radiation Protection (Safety and Security of Radiation Sources) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No. 5) which seems aimed to stop car imports from Japan but in reality could be another feeding trough for the elites in government and in the agency that administers the Radiation Protection Act.
The SI had gone unnoticed for more than a week because it seemed innocuous enough and was not exactly new until its purpose became clear on December 8.
Gazetted on November 27 it sets new rules for vehicle imports. All cars imported will have to be tested for radiation and if contaminated, cleansed; both processes at a charge administered by the Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe (RPAZ).
“In this case we have the Fukushima disaster that occurred in Japan in 2011. Most Zimbabwe vehicle imports come from Japan. So, we are now operationalising that legal instrument at Beitbridge, which will be our pilot port of entry. This will be rolled out to all borders in due course,” Rpaz spokesperman Chamunorwa Murava said.
As is well known, when the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in 2011 and in 2012, the government, together with the Japanese embassy, assured Zimbabweans that car imports from Japan were safe. The official Herald newspaper carried a report on March 15, 2012 which said:
“The Japanese government has allayed fears that vehicles being imported from that country into Zimbabwe could have been contaminated by radioactive material following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March last year.”
What has prompted the government to change heart nearly a decade later?
Of course it is the money! The Rpaz is set to make about US$3 000 daily just testing the 200 vehicles that reach port daily: that is a whopping US$1,1 million dollars a year and if, which is very likely, every car is to be decontaminated at US$50 each that would rake in more than US$5,475 million.
That was too low a hanging fruit for the government to ignore.
But there is a huge problem. According to the Radiation Protection Act, 5/2004 (14) a: the Rpaz’s regulatory functions should be “effectively independent of other functions if that body is involved in both the management of radioactive sources and in their regulation”.
What this means is that the Rpaz cannot set up camp at border posts to do the testing and the decontamination. The reason for this provision in the Act is to avert corruption. The Rpaz could just simply declare every car, or most of the cars, contaminated, and get away with the malfeasance.
Studies elsewhere have shown Japanese cars are safe and the Japanese have assured the world that their vehicle exports are safe before distribution. They would be stupid not to do so!
Rpaz will not get any sufficiently contaminated vehicle at Beitbridge – just the money!