New business policies on the cards: Min Ndlovu
INDUSTRY and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu will early next year table the Local Content Policy and Consumer Protection Bill before Parliament in a bid to enhance local manufacturers’ capacity and to promote consumer rights to basic needs.
In an interview with Sunday News Business recently, Minister Ndlovu said one of his priorities next year would be to expedite the launch Local Content Policy as well as ensuring the Consumer Protection Bill is enacted into a law as soon as possible.
“We were supposed to have launched it before year end but we ended up being delayed and ended up being consumed because of the National Budget preparations. So affirmatively we are going to launch it in the first quarter. I would have put an optimistic target of January but the Parliament opens late. So I can affirm that by the end of the first quarter. It’s the Local Content Policy and Consumer Protection Bill they will be out. The Bill is ready . . . ,” he said.
The local content policy is expected to stimulate use of local factors of production, such as labour, capital, supplies of goods and services, to create value in the domestic economy and hence expand the industrial sector.
“The policy seeks to encourage interaction between local players, manufacturers and buyers of different products to say let’s prioritise our products, let’s have a policy of saying in our procurement a particular percentage should be local content and as well at consumption level, let’s encourage consumption or consuming of local products. That way we may not even need to protect goods coming in because we know we are consuming our products, we are prioritising our manufacturers, we are helping creating employment and we are also helping our manufacturers improve capacity utilisation. So that’s basically what the local policy is about to get Zimbabwe to buy Zimbabwean products,” said Minister Ndlovu.
Buy Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mr Munyaradzi Hwengwere said the Local Content Policy was of paramount importance as it seeks to create rent-based investment and import substitution incentives.
“Without dealing with our production and increasing local inputs of the manufactured product that we have or reducing the imports in the mining sector, our trade deficit would remain very high. Why businesses end up preferring trade measures where you just control borders is because it’s the simpler way but the harder and longer way is to deal with production, providing incentives to companies that reduce imports because they are sourcing their raw materials locally. So as a policy measure it is something that this country seriously and urgently requires today . . . ,” he said.
Mr Hwengwere said a meeting between the minister and various business associations and industry would be held soon to deliberate on the need of accelerating the implementation of the Local Content Policy.
“While the implementation of the Local Content Policy is going on as Buy Zimbabwe we are forging ahead by putting in place measures that will ensure that we begin to audit nationally local content of all the sectors, particularly our manufacturing sector and our mining sector . . . ,” he said.
He said the audit to be carried out, the competitiveness driver comes in the wake of a mining survey, which indicated that no more than 20 percent of inputs into the estimated $2 billion mining industry are obtained locally. Buy Zimbabwe serves as the Secretariat of the Local Content Project chaired by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and comprising key institutions such as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Retailers Associations, Farmers Associations, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, among others.
Commenting on the Consumer Protection Bill Minister Ndlovu said once it was enacted into law it would enable the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) to have legitimate powers to protect consumers against errant businesses.
“I don’t want to comment on it (Consumer Protection Bill) right now apart from saying we are trying to give ‘teeth’ to institutions like CCZ and really to protect consumers from the abuse they are facing from retailers and manufacturers, so that’s the whole aim to emancipate their rights as consumers,” he said.
CCZ executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachithema reiterated Minister Ndlovu’s sentiments stating that the purpose of the Bill was mainly aimed at protecting consumers’ rights.
“We were looking forward to the Bill going through to the Parliament. That’s what we were waiting for because if you go through it you will see how it seeks to protect consumers, it has many sections in it that are aimed at protecting the consumers. That’s the whole thing to protect the consumers and it’s about time,” she said.
Ms Siyachitema said enactment of the Bill into law has been prolonged, leaving consumers at the mercy of unscrupulous retailers.
“Consumer Protection Act is not only going to look at price, it has a much wider scope on things that it looks at in relation to consumer rights . . . what we are advocating for is that it should be put in place because we have seen in the past some of the Bills being fast tracked and yet here we are, we have been working on this Bill for years . . .
“We now need a legal statute, which has “teeth” to enable us to warn retailers, giving them stipulated time to abide and failure to do so they face the consequences. At the moment most businesses need to be “whipped” to toe the line so as to oust them from the bad behaviour, which is presently prevailing on the market. So the Consumer Protection Act is really going to counter a lot of the questions including some institution created within it . . . ,” she said.
The Consumer Protection Act would result in the establishment of a Consumer Court and a Consumer Protection Commission.
The Consumer Protection Commission to be created once the Bill has been passed will co-ordinate and network consumer activities; promote fair business practices and protect consumers from unreasonable, unjust otherwise improper trade practices, deceptive, misleading, unfair and fraudulent conduct.
Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress
Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu