Zimbabwe’s import duty on books alarms universities

Fears that 40 per cent levy could leave academics and students unable to access new research

October 3, 2015
Conveyor belt of books

Zimbabwe’s imposition of a 40 per cent import duty on books could leave academics and students unable to access global knowledge, it has been warned.

Jonathan Moyo, the country’s higher education minister, is among those who have called for the repeal of the duty, which came into force on 1 September.

Patrick Chinamasa, the minister of finance, said that the levy would incentivise the revival of Zimbabwe’s publishing industry and reduce dependency on imports.

But in a letter to his colleague, seen by government-owned newspaper The Herald, Professor Moyo argues that the local book industry does not have the capacity to meet demand. The duty would also breach United Nations treaties, the minister says.

“Any measures that restrict access to learning materials become matters of grave concern,” Professor Moyo was quoted as saying. “Your urgent redress of the anomaly leading to restriction[s] in accessing textbooks would be appreciated.”

The Herald reported that academic textbooks currently cost between $70 (£46) and $120 (£79) in Harare bookshops, but said that the range was likely to be between $100 and $170 by the end of the year.

Bheki Jakobe Ncube, a lecturer in journalism and media studies at Bulawayo’s National University of Science and Technology, said that the government should target non-essential commodities such as beer rather than books.

“Our university library is already under-stocked, and individual lecturers make up for the deficit by buying books from international booksellers,” he told the newspaper. “With this duty, we are bound to produce ‘quarter-baked’ graduates.” 

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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