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Quest Motors, Zimra clash over import duty

The company was initially given the greenlight to import the spare parts duty-free.

THE Supreme Court has ordered a retrial of a case between Quest Motor Manufacturing Company and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) over import duty for parts to assemble Toyota vehicles.

The company was initially given the greenlight to import the spare parts duty-free.

Zimra allegedly changed the goalposts when the parts were already in the company’s bonded warehouse.

Quest cited Zimra and its officials Innocent Chikuni and Chabveka Marekera as respondents in challenging the decision of the tax authority.

The company appealed against a High Court ruling in which its appeal against Zimra was dismissed.

Quest wants the Supreme Court to order the High Court to hear the matter afresh before a different judge.

According to court papers, on September 28, 2022, Quest Motors made an application to Zimra to import spare parts to assemble Toyota Hilux Revo double and single-cab vehicles.

Quest said the application was granted by Zimra through Marekera’s letter dated September 29, 2022.

On October 4, 2022, Quest Motors made another application to Zimra to import and assemble a Toyota Hilux Revo double-cab 4WD 2.4 MID manual and five 4WD 2.8 High auto transmission in SKD kit form.

The application was successful.

The appellant imported SKD kits in terms of the specifications and packaging lists approved by Zimra and Marekera.

On November 4, 2022, Quest invited Zimra to its bonded warehouse to conduct an inspection of the containers.

After the completion of the inspection, Zimra made a U-turn and demanded payment of the full import duty under bills of entry ZWFB C19091 and C19093.

Aggrieved by Zimra’s decision, Quest lodged an appeal with Marekera.

Marekera dismissed the application on the basis that the appellant imported built-up motor vehicle parts as the body and the engine were allegedly on the chassis and the engine could be started.

He said the imported parts did not qualify to be called semi-knocked down motor vehicle kits.

Quest appealed to the commissioner of customs and excise.

Chikuni, acting on behalf of the commissioner of customs and excise, dismissed the appeal.

Chikuni said the SKD Toyota Hilux kits that the appellant imported were not eligible for suspension of import duty in terms of Statutory Instrument (SI) 45 of 2020.

Quest then approached the High Court arguing that it remained eligible for suspension of duty on the motor vehicle kits.

The company argued that the SI did not set out the extent to which the motor vehicle kits should be disassembled for purposes of the automatic application of the suspension of duty.

It further argued that the respondents had no jurisdiction at law to recant its earlier decision.

But Zimra opposed the application saying it was not properly before the court.

Chikuni argued that Quest imported built-up motor vehicles instead of semi-knocked down vehicle kits.

Zimra also said a physical examination carried out at Forbes Border Post revealed that the imported goods were built-up vehicles that required the fitting of doors, seats and other interior materials.

The High Court then ruled against Quest Motors.

Aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, the vehicle manufacturing firm noted an appeal at the Supreme Court and the matter was heard by Justices Chinembiri Bhunu, George Chiweshe and Joseph Musakwa.

“Our view is that the court a quo did not properly ventilate the preliminary point raised, particularly the defence raised by the appellant. The failure of the court a quo to do so has left this court without a basis to assess the correctness or otherwise of the finding on the preliminary issue,” the judges ruled.

“It is in the interests of justice that the contentions by the parties be fully ventilated and that a determination be made as to whether the review proceedings instituted could legally and factually be classified as civil proceedings under s196 of the Customs and Excise Act.”

They added: “On the basis of the above, our view is that the first ground of appeal has merit and is dispositive of the appeal.

“For completeness, given the concession by counsel for the respondent that the court a quo erred in dismissing the matter instead of striking it off, it becomes unnecessary to belabour this point. That concession was properly made.”

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