‘SI 64, punitive customs duty fuel smuggling’

BEITBRIDGE residents have rubbished Statutory Instrument 64, as an unresearched document, which, together with other “unfortunate” economic decisions, should be thrown away before inflicting more harm to an already impoverished people.

By OWN CORRESPONDENT

They said the government should levy duty instead of banning goods and consider all-round lowering of tariffs on all imported goods, including cars, to discourage smuggling, which authorities have failed to arrest.

In a no-holds barred meeting, Beitbridge residents openly revealed how police, members of the Zimbabwe National Army and other known security agents deployed at the border post smuggled or facilitated smuggling to line their pockets.

“Policemen and soldiers patrolling the border line are the ones benefiting and the government is not.

“They turn a blind eye on smuggling.

“Duty on goods is prohibitive and this has fuelled smuggling,” vice-president of the Beitbridge Residents’ Association, Florence Gumbo said.

She was making a recommendation to the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that visited the border town to consult on the 2018 National Budget.

“Speak freely, you will not be asked by anyone whatever you say in this room because throughout this meeting, you enjoy parliamentary privilege,” the committee’s chairman, David Chapfika, said in his opening remarks, triggering a wave of complaints.

“If duty is reasonable and similar to what other countries in the region charge, people will not smuggle, but come through the border post,” Gumbo said.

Numerous incidents of smuggling have been occurring on the country’s border with South Africa after the government introduced SI 64 banning several commodities deemed to have local equivalents.

The ban sparked nationwide riots, which started in Beitbridge, where millions of dollars worth of property, including a State warehouse holding goods and cars, were razed to the ground.

Beitbridge Business Association chairperson, Nkululeko Mbedzi said the border post had become dysfunctional and this affected the entire town, as their livelihoods are anchored on business at the port.

“If the border post here fails to work, Beitbridge will die and eventually the whole country,” he said.

“Something needs to be done urgently.”

Asked to explain, Mbedzi said clearing of goods was slow and the staff complement was far less than required.

Businessperson and politician, Enos Tshilli asked why the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority required businesspeople to buy fiscalisation machines that only benefited the taxman.

“This machine supervises the running of my business for the benefit of Zimra and costs $600,” he said.

“Why shouldn’t Zimra buy it? Why are we made to buy it?”

Another resident requested the government to assist in lighting up Beitbridge town, which is a hive of activity 24 hours a day, but had of late experienced a wave of criminal activity.

“Beitbridge is under siege from robbers, who take advantage of the dark.

“The government could assist the town council light the road from the border post to the bus terminus,” the resident said.

Chapfika commended the residents for what he said were meaningful contributions.

‘SI 64, punitive customs duty fuel smuggling’ : NewsDay Zimbabwe.