Botswana: Government moves to ban Chinese trade in clothes

Government has moved to put in place trade laws that will ban Chinese traders from dealing in clothes.

The Chinese traders were given 24 months from May last year to rearrange their businesses or face being sent back to China.

The government’s decision to bar non-citizens – especially the Chinese traders – from dealing in clothing comes at a time when the Chinese traders are found at every corner of the country, selling all types of clothes, mainly fake overseas clothing brands.

The clothes include jerseys for popular soccer clubs like Manchester United, which are selling for P30 or three Pounds Sterling. The Chinese shops are also awash with Botswana national football team jerseys, which are also selling for about P40.

Director of Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, John Matsheng, says that the likes of Chinese traders exploited a loophole in the specialised licences to trade in various goods which they would then sell in the same shop.

Initially, the licencing department believed that the specialised licences would protect local traders because the non-citizen investors engage in specialised trade, but the Chinese knew how to beat the law by applying for licences for almost anything that can sell, something that forced the licensing department to abolish the so-called specialised licence last year as the number of Chinese shop owners reached 654.

Matsheng says they have written to their licensced Chinese traders informing them that they need to re-arrange their business and stop posturing like general dealers as that type of business is reserved for citizens. Matsheng says after 24 months, if the Chinese traders do not re-arrange their business the department will refuse to award them the licences. It is as simple as that," Matsheng explained.

"The Chinese were up to May 2008, issued with the specialised dealer’s licences. After May 2008, when the specialised dealer’s licence was abolished, they were then required to apply for a miscellaneous licence. The Minister of Trade and Industry directed that operators that sell goods that are unrelated, that is those that are essentially general dealers, should be licenced on condition that they re-arrange their operations, within a period of 24 months, to sell related goods. This is in recognition of the fact that certain non-citizens previously circumvented the reservation policy and used the specialised dealer’s licence to operate essentially as general dealers," Matsheng wrote.

Last year the department of trade updated a new list of businesses reserved for locals. The list of 13 includes licences for general clothing, general dealer’s, car wash, auctioneers, fresh produce, funeral parlour, hairdresser, laundromat, petrol filling station and take away. Others are the cleaning services licence, and curio shop.  The list was updated in accordance with the new trade law of 2003, which began operation in May last year, Matsheng said.

Before the updated list, reserved businesses for citizens were hawkers and street vending, butchery and fresh produce, petrol filling stations, bottle stores and bars, Chibuku, village type restaurant, take away and super market, excluding chain stores, simple operation such as boutique fashion and foot wear.

Matsheng said his department after abolishing the specialised licence last year now issues the likes of Chinese traders miscellaneous licences while the traders re-arrange their businesses to ensure that it does not eat into the citizen only reserves. – Mmegionline

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