While the talk of a complete ban on imports of cars from Japan to Zimbabwe seems a little exaggerated, by restricting these imports to cars which are a maximum of 5 years old Zimbabwe will have some of the strictest import regulations in the African continent.
If the government is really worried about the quality of these used cars, they could have easily implemented similar procedures as Kenya, which requires that cars pass the JEVIC inspection before shipping from Japan.
Although Japanese car exporters will suffer if these restrictions are imposed, the real victims of these laws will be poorer Zimbabweans, such as Mathew Marufu:
“For Mathew Marufu, who has a disabled 10 year-old son, owning a second hand Japanese car has been an ‘answer from God’.
“My son has to travel across town to a special school for disabled children and it was a nightmare these past years to take him there. You know in Zimbabwe we have no reliable public transport and also if one uses it it’s not friendly to the disabled,” Marufu said.
He bought a second hand; imported Japanese car for 3,000 dollars and it has changed his family’s life. “So this second hand car … has helped my family in a huge way, my son can now go to school comfortably and never get to miss any lesson.”
It is people like Mathew, or primary school principal George Tigere, who will no longer be able to afford to gain personal mobility in the future, according to the report at allafrica.com.
Given that this news story goes on to explain how much customs duty these imports generate for government coffers, it seems clear that the issue is not one of lost revenue either. No, it seems much more likely that the real issue is that the ruling class and wealthy upper crust of Zimbabwe’s society want to maintain their distance from the vast majority of the population under them:
“Over the last four years the importation of cheap second hand cars from Japan has meant that cars are no longer just for the wealthy in a country where unemployment is as high as 90 percent.” (Emphasis mine)
Incongruously, the alleged impetus behind these new regulations are environmental reasons and safety:
“According to the environment ministry, Japan, which has strict carbon emissions laws, has created a massive industry in second hand car exports to poor third world countries like Zimbabwe.
“A greater number of these Japanese cars have been banned on the roads in their original country with Zimbabwe turning into their dumping site. It’s up to us to aggressively stand up against such kind of exploitation. We have a duty to save lives, protect ourselves and our environment,” said Nhema.”
Well, if you know anything about how things work in Japan, you will know right away that these cars have not been “banned” in Japan. If they had been “banned on the roads”, then they could not have been exported as they would not have had the correct paperwork to do so. How could you deregister a car for export if that car was “banned from the road” and, therefore, not registered in the first place? Clearly, this is a logical fallacy.
The reason there is a strong demand for these exported used Japanese cars is very simple: They represent better quality at a better price than anything that the consumer can source locally. After all, why would you go to all the trouble of getting a car from the other side of the world, pay to have it shipped and then pay duty when it enters the country, when you could just go down the street and get a better, safer, cleaner car for the same amount of money or less? It is the middle class of Zimbabwe whose aspirations drive this business.
Of course, any cars imported into Zimbabwe would have had to undergo regular shaken (roadworthiness) inspections in Japan. These tests cover both safety aspects and emissions, so it is clearly highly unlikely that there are smoke-belching death-traps being imported into Zimbabwe anyway.
The only point I will have to concede to Mr. Nhema is this: Yes, if more people own cars in Zimbabwe, then this will clearly result in higher CO2 emissions than their other alternative means of personal transportation… walking. But if this is the argument, then the minister should take measures immediately to ban motor vehicles of all descriptions, whatever their origin.
At Integrity Exports, we are happy to comply with whatever rules and legislation our customers’ countries require us to. So, if Zimbabwe does implement these changes to their import laws, of course we will be happy to comply.
However, we would like to submit that it is the Zimbabwean people who will suffer most when these new import laws are introduced, and we call on the government of Zimbabwe to reconsider these regulations. In particular, we submit that if the government is genuinely concerned about the quality of the used vehicles being imported, then they should require a JEVIC compliance certificate just as Kenya does.