Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Reporter
Treasury has been called upon to reverse the recently-introduced 40 percent import duty on textbooks as this restricts access to learning materials, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said yesterday.
In a letter to Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa seen by The Herald, Prof Moyo implored his counterpart to scrap the duty, arguing the local book industry did not have the capacity to meet requirements.
He said officials at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority had confirmed that the duty levy had commenced beginning of September.
“Prior to this development, the First Schedule of the Customs and Excise Notice, 2012, published in S1 (Statutory Instrument) 111 of 2012 stipulated that textbooks were to be imported without levying any duty,” said Prof Moyo.
“The Customs and Excise (Tariff) (Amendment) Notice, 2015 (No.19) amended S1 (Statutory Instrument) 111 of 2012 by replacing the duty free import of books with a 40 percent plus $1kg levy.”
Prof Moyo said the new import duty breached provisions of the UNESCO Treaty of 1950 Article 1 (a) and (b).
The Treaty provides that contracting states should not apply customs duty or other charges on or in connection with the importation of books and educational materials.
“Given that my Ministry superintends over the higher and tertiary education sector and houses the UNESCO national office, any measures that restrict access to learning materials become matters of grave concern. Your urgent redress of the anomaly leading to restriction in accessing textbooks would be appreciated.”
Prof Moyo’s call comes amid concerns that the import duty will put the price of books, including school textbooks, beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans and prejudice schools and libraries.
On September 1 this year, Government gazetted duty increases and reductions for several goods and items in line with its proposals and subsequent statutory instruments on customs and excise duty.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority enforced these new tariffs and all book imports are now charged duty of 40 percent plus $1 per kilogramme.