Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
THE Government is beefing up security at Beitbridge border post to curb smuggling and other illegal activities which authorities believe could be costing the country over US$1 billion annually in unpaid customs duty.
It is understood that the organised evasion of duties is compromising State development projects and the viability of businesses that abide by all customs requirements.
State Security Minister Owen Ncube yesterday said Government had noted with concern the high level of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The Minister visited Beitbridge border post yesterday with senior members of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) to assess security and the level of crime along the border.
Among those who accompanied him were Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Sibanda, Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander, Air Marshal Elson Moyo and State Security director-general Ambassador Isaac Moyo and other senior security officials.
The team also visited the River Ranch illegal crossing point which is 30km east of the main port of entry.
This is an area used by smugglers because of its proximity to the Beitbridge to Bulawayo and Beitbridge to Harare highways.
According to Minister Ncube, goods that were being smuggled into the country included building material, explosives, flea market goods, medicines, groceries, fuel, and electrical gadgets.
“This can’t go on forever. We are here today with all heads of security in the country.
“We have seen and noted where the leakages are coming from and we are going to be addressing the issues with immediate effect. We want to seal all the porous areas between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“The country is losing a lot of revenue in customs duty to well organised syndicates and let those involved in such criminal vices know that the honeymoon will soon be over,” said Minister Ncube.
The minister said they had also taken note of recommendations by various arms of the Government which have visited the border post before.
All heads in the security cluster had agreed to upgrade security to boost the country’s capacity to collect more revenue through formal channels.
Some of the proposals included the grading of a patrol road, motorising patrols, the deployment of more staff, the use of hi-tech equipment and specialised sniffer dogs.
Currently, security agencies are relying on tip-offs to effect arrests of mineral smugglers.
It is understood that on the export side, both small time and well established dealers are smuggling mainly minerals, cigarettes and stolen livestock.
Zimbabwe imports goods worth billions of United States dollars from its neighbour annually and according to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) they are collecting more than $150 million in import duties at Beitbridge weekly.
On the other hand, South Africa is intercepting Zimbabwean cigarettes worth millions of rand around Limpopo Province daily.
Investigations by our news crew reveal that it is difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa due to high excise duties on tobacco or cigarettes in that country.