By Nyasha Chabururuka
THE banning of imported second hand vehicles is a topic which often invokes hot tempers among a sizable number of the Zimbabwean populace.
Four years ago, Parliament moved a motion to ban the importation of second hand vehicles, a move which was greeted by fierce resistance from the motoring public and from car dealers who feared the worst had that motion been enacted.
Recently Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa torched a storm when he expressed dislike for the mostly ex-Japanese car imports which he described as ‘junk’.
Minister Chinamasa’s sentiments that ex-Japanese car imports were bleeding the economy were met with mixed feelings.
Zimbabweans across the board feel car imports have bridged a gap created by the country’s two car assemblers, Quest Motors and Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries (WMMI).
Shelton Madangwe from Greendale said WMMI and Quest Motors had failed to adequately service prospective drivers from all walks of life because the vehicles they assembled, which were mainly Mazda and Peugeot respectively, were beyond the reach of the majority of Zimbabweans as the country’s economy is yet to recover from a decade of battering.
“Our local car assemblers failed to adequately manage competition in their industry by availing only vehicles which were afforded by the elite,” said Madangwe.
“You had WMMI producing Mazda models such as the Mazda 3 and BT 50 which were pegged at US$25 000 and US$30 000 respectively which most individuals could not afford, hence they ended up only serving the corporate world and a privileged few. However, due to the imposing effects of globalisation which demystified internet shopping, most locals found they could raise as little as US$3 000 to import, transport and pay duty for their second hand vehicles which they would never had afforded had they been limited to the local market.”
An official from WMMI who preferred anonymity had no kind words for the car assembler which she said had failed to prove its mettle in the face of competition.
“I think WMMI is fast becoming a cry-baby because they expect Government policy to protect them from competition yet the product they are offering is Japanese by origin. The real reason why they had ceased production is that they had failed to settle a US$6 milllion debt with Itochu Corporation of Japan, and by advocating the banning of ex-Japanese vehicles Government would be breeding inefficiences in industry.
Munyaradzi Gurupira weighed in saying the prices of brand new vehicles were prohibitive and most second hand vehicles being imported into the country still had a reasonable life-span.
“I have been buying and selling second hand vehicles since 2007 and I believe this industry has provided a source of employment to thousands of unemployed persons,” said Gurupira.
“My experience has been that most of these vehicles would be in good condition when you import them, but sometimes the owners of the vehicles abuse these city cars which they drive carelessly in sometimes unforgiving terrains.
“Most second hand car purchasers expect to only part with fuel money, and do not service their vehicles when they are due. When these vehicles break down, some then shout on top of their voices that the ex-Japanese vehicles are ‘junk’ yet they would have failed to maintain a well performing car.”
The influx of imported second hand vehicles mostly from Japan and the United Kingdom has also eased unemployment.
A significant number of the unemployed have found brisk business in downstream industries such as buying and selling motor vehicle spare parts, tyres, car accessories, while some have learnt the art of mechanics and auto electronics.
Government has also immensely benefitted from import duty, which grossed US$250 million from 206 519 purchased between January and November last year, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.
Last year, Government pegged excise duty for petrol and diesel at US30 cents and US35 cents up from previous prices from US25 cents and US20 cents respectively. Government approved the increases on excise duty in a move that was described as further burdening the plight of the ordinary tax payer as Government moved to boost its coffers.
ZINARA has also pocketed rich pickings from motorists across the country at tollgates dotted around the country’s major highways, further surging Government revenue.
After considering the facts on the ground, one is left wondering whether the importation of second hand vehicles is bleeding the economy or contributing positively to the fiscus.