Thupeyo Muleya–Beitbridge Bureau
Well-orchestrated syndicates have this year been using buses to smuggle goods across Zimbabwe with the loss in import duties and other taxes prompting the National Security Taskforce to clampdown on such criminals.
An official within the national security cluster said between March 1 and April 29, 54 buses were caught carrying an assortment of smuggled goods worth over $20 million.
“We have been intercepting some of the buses at security checkpoints between Beitbridge, Harare and Bulawayo,” said the official.
“We have established that in most cases the smugglers are using illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River to bring in commercial goods which they then load in buses at Dulivhadzimu bus terminus for onward transmission to towns and cities nationwide”.
Government deployed the taskforce on January 5 at the recommendation of the National Joint Operations Committee, following numerous reports of smuggling and other criminal activities along the South African border.
A survey revealed that many dealers are illegally crossing into South Africa bringing back large quantities of goods for resale.
They then load intercity buses at Dulivhadzimu bus terminus, which is handling an average of 10 buses daily, down from 30 at its peak owing to strict Covid-19 regulations being implemented by the Government.
Common goods being smuggled into the country include building materials, vehicles, fuel, livestock, flea market wares, illicit medicines, groceries, fuel, tyres, genetically modified vegetables and fruits and electrical appliances.
On the export side, both small-time and well-established dealers are smuggling minerals, cigarettes, and stolen livestock into South Africa.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police had resorted to naming and shaming bus companies that are being used to smuggle goods and transport contrabands.
He said they were also engaging the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, to revoke or suspend operating licences and permits for those bus operators found on the wrong side of the law.
“The rate at which we are intercepting buses which are being used to smuggle goods into the country or carry contraband is alarming.
Police had also established that syndicates were working with bus crews who in some instances pretend to be transporting returnees from South Africa.
“Fortunately these criminals are being intercepted while or after smuggling goods of commercial nature into the country,” he added.
Asst Comm Nyathi said the police will descend heavily on both the smugglers and the bus crews conniving to break the law.
Zimra spokesperson Mr Francis Chimanda said that between March 21 and March 29, four buses were intercepted between Harare and Beitbridge and were referred for physical examination at the border post.
He said the authority collected additional import revenue of $1 917 684 which included $958 842 duty payable and an equal amount in fines.