Southern African Customs Union (SACU) says Zimbabwe has not officially communicated its intention to join the trade block.
Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, was quoted in the Sunday Times last month saying that joining SACU was one of the options Zimbabwe has as it tries to revitalise its economy.
SACU, the world's oldest customs union, founded in 1910, is made up of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
“SACU is not aware of any communications from Zimbabwe requesting or expressing interest to be part of SACU,” Communications Manager Kungo Mabogo told the Windhoek Observer.
She added that for a country to join SACU that country has to make an official request to the SACU member States to consider.
Mozambique has in the past been reported as also wishing to join the union, but Mabogo said Mozambique has also not made any official communication to indicate its interest in joining SACU. She also said the Heads of State have not discussed expanding the union lately.
“The expansion of SACU would increase the market access for trade amongst the member states and even increase in products depending on business profile of the countries joining,” Mabogo said when asked about the would be advantages of an expanded union.
A reform to SACU’s sharing formula has been one of the hot issues of late, but Mabogo said the revenue sharing formula is still under review by member states.
Last month, Business Day of South Africa reported that South Africa is pushing for a bigger slice of the revenue generated by SACU, but is facing a wall of resistance from its neighbours.
Restructuring the revenue-sharing formula which sees the lion’s share of revenue going to SA’s neighbours could release badly needed funds to meet the country’s dire fiscal challenges, the paper said.
South African Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, briefed parliament’s finance and trade & industry committees last month on deadlocked negotiations, the paper said.
It said the committees resolved to support their stance and to submit their decision to the National Assembly for endorsement. This will strengthen the position of SA’s negotiators during the talks, the paper said.
Nene told MPs that very little progress has been made in discussions to review the revenue-sharing formula despite intense engagements. The major difficulty was the underlying principle of the negotiations, which was that no-one should be made worse off by any agreement. This meant no-one should be better off either, the newspaper reported.
In the period 2014/2015 to 2017/2018 financial years, Botswana received total payments from the Common Revenue Pool of R77.9 billion, Eswatini (R26.8 billion), Lesotho (R24.1 billion), Namibia (R69.1 billion) and South Africa (R159.1 billion.
Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, said in March that the most significant downside risks to Namibia’s revenue regards SACU receipts, which are projected to decline sharply by a cumulative of 18 percent during the next two years.
“As such, domestic replacement revenue, combined with increased tax administration effort is necessary to mitigate revenue volatility and support the budget implementation,” he said.
SACU Payments in billion
FY Botswana Eswatini Lesotho Namibia South Africa
2014/15 19.3 7.6 7.1 18.3 36.9
2015/16 20.0 6.8 6.3 17.1 38.6
2016/17 15.5 5.3 4.5 14.1 39.9
2017/18 23.0 7.1 6.2 19.6 43.7
TOTAL 77.9 26.8 24.1 69.1 159.1