Im­port re­stric­tions fuel ram­pant smug­gling in Beit­bridge

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Mashudu Net­sianda

SMUG­GLING of com­modi­ties into the coun­try has es­ca­lated fol­low­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Statu­tory In­stru­ment (SI) 64 of 2016 with the Gov­ern­ment los­ing mil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery week in un­paid cus­toms duty.

The in­stru­ment re­stricts the im­por­ta­tion of some goods pro­duced locally. But ram­pant smug­gling ac­tiv­i­ties are tak­ing place at il­le­gal cross­ing points dot­ted along the Lim­popo River, The Chron­i­cle can re­veal.

The im­port re­stric­tions which were in­tro­duced in June this year re­moved 42 prod­ucts from the open gen­eral im­port li­cence, re­strict­ing their im­por­ta­tion, as it was felt that lo­cal in­dus­try has ca­pac­ity to pro­duce them.

SI 64 of 2016 con­trols a wide ar­ray of prod­ucts among them cof­fee cream­ers, cam­phor creams, white petroleum jel­lies, body lo­tions, builders’ ware such as wheel­bar­rows, struc­tures and parts of struc­tures of iron or steel, bridges and bridge sec­tions, lock gates, lat­tice masts, roof, roof frame­works and doors.

A Chron­i­cle news crew last week vis­ited some of the un­des­ig­nated en­try points out­side Beit­bridge and estab­lished that a net­work of well-or­gan­ised syn­di­cates has in­vaded the spots.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that the smug­gling syn­di­cates work in ca­hoots with vil­lagers liv­ing along the border to smug­gle a wide range of goods from South Africa. The rack­e­teer­ing takes place at night un­der the nose of se­cu­rity de­tails pa­trolling the borderline.

Beit­bridge Border Post con­trib­utes 70 per­cent of all the cus­toms duty col­lected in Zim­babwe and 30 per­cent of the coun­try’s source of rev­enue comes from cus­toms duty.

At Not­ting­ham Es­tate, about 40km west of the border town, the news crew ob­served a one tonne truck be­ing loaded with smug­gled goods shortly after 8PM.

The goods, which were con­cealed un­der a con­sign­ment of or­anges, in­cluded al­co­holic bev­er­ages and boxes of cook­ing oil.

The smug­glers are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the dry Lim­popo riverbed to cross the border us­ing 4x4 vehicles.

“I get a num­ber of peo­ple who ap­proach me ev­ery week so that I help them to iden­tify il­le­gal cross­ing points to smug­gle their goods from South Africa and that is how I make a liv­ing. They usu­ally bring 4x4 vehicles to cross the dry riverbed and the goods that are be­ing smug­gled range from small gro­cery items to tele­vi­sion sets, re­frig­er­a­tors, couches,” said a villager who de­clined to re­veal his iden­tity.

An­other villager from Malale, who only iden­ti­fied him­self as Maanda, said some of the smug­glers bribed both South African and lo­cal po­lice and sol­diers pa­trolling the border on ei­ther side to fa­cil­i­tate their il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.

The smug­glers risk be­ing at­tacked and robbed by crim­i­nals oper­at­ing along the cor­ri­dor with an es­ti­mated 200 il­le­gal cross­ing points along the Lim­popo River.

Po­lice pa­trolling the border told The Chron­i­cle that hardly a week passes by with­out a smug­gler or border jumper be­ing re­ported to have been mugged or robbed by crim­i­nals.

The smug­gling is fu­elled by vil­lagers who live within the border area.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to travel be­tween 80km and 100km to Beit­bridge Border Post to buy gro­ceries when I can sim­ply walk across the river for less than 10km and bring the items with­out the has­sles of go­ing through the rig­or­ous cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion pro­cesses,” said one villager.

Some of the home­steads at Dumba and Mawale vil­lagers are be­ing used as “ware­houses” for smug­gled goods.

The goods are re­port­edly smug­gled at night and tem­po­rar­ily kept at some home­steads as the own­ers mon­i­tored the sit­u­a­tion.

A Zim­babwe Rev­enue Author­ity (Zimra) of­fi­cial who re­quested anonymity ad­mit­ted that smug­gling syn­di­cates were dodg­ing the border.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to mon­i­tor smug­gling be­cause there are so many cross­ing points along the Lim­popo River,” he said.

Beit­bridge Border Post is the big­gest port of en­try in Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa link­ing Zim­babwe to South Africa.

Sus­pected smug­glers make their way from Dumba Vil­lage in Beit­bridge to the Lim­popo River on don­key-drawn carts to col­lect goods smug­gled from South Africa. The bad state of the roads makes them in­ac­ces­si­ble to cars. (Pic­ture by Obey Sibanda)

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