EDITORIAL COMMENT: Govt must urgently deal with smuggling along our borders
The gains of imports control measures put in place by Government through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 will soon be eroded unless measures are put in place to stop smuggling of goods through designated ports of entry and exit as well as via unofficial points along the country’s borders. The widespread smuggling of goods has seen an influx of goods which local companies are producing.
Most of these imported products are restricted under S1 64 of 2016 which is meant to protect local producers so that they can retool and increase production. Government which is being prejudiced of millions of dollars as a result of this widespread smuggling, has warned that it will soon raid shops selling unlicensed imported products.
It said the measures it has crafted to contain the widespread smuggling involve the use of information communication technology gadgets and drones in the surveillance of borders. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority chairperson Willia Bonyongwe recently said less than 10 percent of the trucks entering Zimbabwe were being secured with electronic devices and monitored real time due to reluctance among Zimra officials to enforce security measures.
This is a very worrying development given the strong belief that the bulk of the goods being smuggled into the country come as transit cargo. When Zimra introduced the electronic tracking system in May this year, trucks classified as transit cargo carriers dropped by 67 percent, a confirmation that these trucks were infact smuggling goods into the country disguised as transit cargo.
Government said it fears the proliferation of restricted imports could threaten gains achieved so far including the growth in capacity utilisation hence the additional measures it is putting in place to fight smuggling. Capacity utilisation rose from 34,3 percent in 2015 to about 47 percent in 2016 and this was attributed largely to the imports control measures introduced by Government.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said Government had completed a multi-pronged strategy which will look into processes, systems and the human factor aspects aiding smuggling of goods into the country.
Minister Bimha said the country’s borders were so porous that there were now some undesignated points where even trucks could pass through.
The minister however said what was encouraging was that Government now had a vivid narrative of how the smuggling was occurring through the designated ports of entry and exit as well as unofficial points along the country’s borders. He said as part of measures to fight smuggling, Government had assigned officials openly and undercover to investigate what transpires in the underworld of unscrupulous business practices, which is costing the country millions of dollars in potential revenue.
Minister Bimha said the team of investigators was drawn from an inter-ministerial taskforce made up of officials from the ministries of Home Affairs, Industry and Commerce, Mines and Mining Development, Finance and Economic Development, Zimra and the security agents. Officials at the borders, Minister Bimha said, were assisting those smuggling the goods hence the Government’s decision to deploy a team of investigators.
We want to commend Government for the many measures it is putting in place to fight smuggling but for this war to be won, there is a need for co-operation from all citizens. Shops should stop providing the market for smuggled goods and officials at the country’s borders should stop being selfish and put the country’s interests first.
The fight Government is involved in is meant to assist revive industries and turnaround the economy for the good of all citizens so assisting smugglers in order to get a quick buck is being selfish. Let us all declare war against smuggling of goods in order to support local production which results in job creation.