Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) has expressed concern with the increase of cases where buses are used to smuggle commercial cargo and restricted goods into the country through Beitbridge Border Post. The parastatal’s operations manager for Beitbridge, Mr Farai Makunike, told members of the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Peace and Security during a visit to the border on Monday that smuggling and the abuse of travellers’ rebate were rampant.
He said besides using buses, the smugglers were also using cyclists to import restricted and banned products into the country. “Off late we have noted an increase in buses which are being used to smuggle commercial cargo into the country. This has at many times caused unnecessary delays for travellers as the clearance of commercial cargo takes a few hours” he said.
“We are intercepting the buses on a daily basis and we also have a problem with transit fraud where goods destined for other countries are offloaded and consumed within Zimbabwe. This results in loss of revenue and importation of restricted goods”.
Mr Makunike said the low compliance levels by importers and travellers had declined due to various social and economic factors. He said in some instances they were using the canine section and mobile scanners to curb intrusive leakages at the border post. “Our Container Deport and warehouses are filled up with smuggled goods and the bicycles we seize on a daily basis. The rampant smuggling of items outside the travellers rebate has seen us losing potential revenue.
“Some of the items which fall outside the travellers rebate include; blankets, refrigerators, stoves, cooking oil, laundry bar soap, beds, mattresses, flour, maize meal, sugar, meat, fish, powdered milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, corn puffs, jam, honey and margarine as well as furniture made of metal, wood, bamboo, plastics or rattan and other material and parts or ornaments of furniture. These are liable to customs duty,” said Mr Makunike.
He said that they had implemented various measures to reduce some incidents of smuggling including engaging the cross border bus operators and importers. He added that the current infrastructure was not enough to handle the volume of both human and vehicle traffic adding that these needed major renovations.
An average of 450 000 travellers, 21 000 trucks, 3 200 buses and 30 000 private cars access the border post monthly. He said the situation at the port of entry was also exacerbated by acute staff shortage due to unavailability of accommodation in the border town.