By Judith Sibanda
The Victoria Falls business community has called on the government to decentralise the issuance of trading and export licences so that they do not have to travel long distances to Harare to process these licences.
They also pointed out that the charges are exorbitant amid reports that government entities including Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) are demanded all payments to be done in foreign currency.
Speaking at a parliamentary public hearing on Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA), at Chinotimba Hall, yesterday, some of the business people said they are facing challenges in acquiring export licences.
Most of the businesses in the resort town target the regional and international markets.
“l am a carpenter and a young entrepreneur, but in trying to improve my skills and business l have encountered many problems especially at government offices,” said one local entrepreneur.
“For me to get an export license, l have to travel to Harare or further to Mazowe. It is very costly and when we get there, they demand me to pay $500 for a single chair to be exported.
“I have been denied the license many times and currently they are demanding us to pay in foreign currency. We would like to ask you parliamentarians to tell our leaders that they are killing us.”
The Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade Chairperson Honourabe Kindness Paradza said they had come to present the Bill aimed at improving reforms on ease of doing business as well as to attract the much-needed foreign direct investment into the country.
However, local business people also urged the government to improve the ease of doing business for local businesses.
“After giving you that license, it will be valid for seven days for you to export your goods including clearing at the border,” lamented another exporter.
“What happens is that, when one clearing officer is not at work, you are told to come back after his off days or go to other far away towns until your license expire. We go back to reapply and at times it is denied.
“We want this Bill to address opening a ZIDA office in Hwange district, offer internet facilities to fax and email papers without us having to travel as far as Mazowe and charges to be pegged in RTGs.”
Speaking to CITE after the event, Paradza said they had gathered the residents’ concerns and which were going to be presented before parliament.
“The people of Victoria Falls have shown that they want a one stop shop and this Bill to be passed as soon as possible because they want investors to come in this town as it is part of the special economic zone,” he said.
“They have made it clear that they want licenses to be processed in a short space of time. Right now they are getting their trading and export licenses from Harare and as far as Mazowe which is unfair to them.
“The minister of Finance (Mthuli Ncube) has given a directive that all government entities must charge everything in RTGs no negotiations in that and we shall look into that.”
Legislators said the Bill seeks to establish the management and finances of the new ZIDA and its one-stop investment services centres, which will guarantee non-discriminatory treatment to investors, investor obligations, including social responsibility.
According to the Bill, the primary function of the Agency is to facilitate entry and implementation of investment projects, as well as to coordinate investment programmes and strategies.
The Bill establishes a board that shall control the agency including the appointment of a chief executive officer and other staff of the Agency while also empowers the agency to cancel an investor’s licence if it was obtained fraudulently, is transferred without authority or fails to implement an approved activity within agreed time frames.
Paradza said two teams have been disbursed and were yet to visit Bulawayo, Gwanda, Gweru, Kwekwe, Harare, Marondera and Mutare among other towns for consultations before compiling a report to be discussed in parliament for adoption.