Eyebrows raised over suspension of import duty on buses

The suspension of import duty on bus imports has raised eyebrows with analysts questioning whether the move will improve the public transport system in the country.

In Statutory Instrument (SI) 138 of 2022, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube amended the Customs and Excise Act to allow for the suspension of duty on imported public service buses. 

Under the SI, approved transport operators may import as many as 20 buses duty-free per year beginning July 2022. 

Despite the move, analysts have critiqued whether the move will solve the transport crisis, which has seen commuters queue for long hours on end.

“While this is a welcome move it comes in too late and is completely inadequate to solve the man-made public transport crisis following 42 years of pillaging by the state,” said Effie Ncube in an interview with CITE.

“It will take years to rebuild the public transport system to a level where reliability and affordability are achieved. For this to happen the system needs thousands of new buses, a constant supply of spare parts, affordable and reliable fuel supply, policy consistency, and a functioning economy, none of which are on the horizon.

Another analyst, Bernard Magugu questioned whether this move would benefit any businessperson who wanted to try their luck in the transport sector or individuals who were close to the ruling party.

“I am not sure if this will benefit all operators or anyone wanting to get into the transport industry given the history of the leadership in the country. One, this might benefit individuals who are close to the ruling party and those not close can be frustrated through delays of their documents while those close can get documentation quickly,” he said.

Mugugu claimed those who qualified for this import duty relaxation, may at one time be forced to do bidding for the state using their buses for free.

“Having seen transport institutions like ZUPCO or some schools with buses ferrying people to Zanu rallies, l am sure those who buy these buses through this facility will be forced at one point in time to ferry people to rallies without any compensation or face some punitive measures,” said the analyst.

He also added that since Zimbabwe’s economy was “in an intensive care unit,” entrepreneurs may fail to raise funds to buy buses.

“How many will be able to purchase buses? I guess those involved in underground dealings will benefit and of course, you can easily get in underground dealings if you are close to Zanu!” Magugu said.

Statutory Instrument 138 of 2022 on Customs and Excise (suspension) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 (no. 261), further states that the Secretary for Transport and Infrastructural Development shall on a case-by-case, recommend to the Commissioner qualifying public service bus operators duly registered in terms of Part III of the Road Motor Transportation Act (Chapter 13:15).

“A public service bus shall be admitted under suspension of duty only if the approved importer has been furnished to the satisfaction of the Commissioner,” read the statute.

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