Source: Smuggling crackdown nets 15 buses | The Herald
Thupeyo Muleya and Prosper Dembedza
The National Security Taskforce has intensified the crackdown on smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa and intercepted 15 buses carrying contraband worth thousands of dollars.
The buses were intercepted between Monday evening and yesterday morning at Dulivhadzimu bus terminus and on major highways from Beitbridge town leading to Harare, Bulawayo and other urban centres in Zimbabwe.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the security authorities were not relenting on their quest to curb the scourge of smuggling.
He said the value of the goods intercepted in Beitbridge was yet to be ascertained.
“We will not hesitate to arrest anyone involved in crime especially smuggling or corrupt activities,” he said.
“Our targets are individuals, syndicates, security personnel, companies and transporters engaging in the illegal movement of goods across the borders.”
He said police had noted an increase in inter-city and cross border buses being used by syndicates to transport smuggled goods.
He said such activities had an adverse effect on the collection of import duties by the government.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police were ready to deal with criminals regardless of their standing in society.
“We strongly advise anyone wishing to import or export goods through our borders to do so within the confines of the existing Customs and Excise laws,” he added.
On Saturday, 18 security officials were arrested for taking a bribe of R2 000 from a cross border bus crew member in Beitbridge.
“The days of those playing hide and seek with the law are numbered,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
It is understood that the smugglers are shipping the goods through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River which they then load in buses heading to various towns and cities across the country.
Others are using buses carrying Zimbabwean migrants returning home by road through the Beitbridge border post.
A passenger on one of the intercepted 15 buses, Ms Lizzy Chimunhu said it was very critical for those importing goods from across borders to always comply with customs laws to avoid inconveniences.
“This is an unnecessary inconvenience. Imagine I paid duty for all my goods but now I am being delayed because of the actions of other travellers,” she said.
This week’s crackdown comes as the Zimbabwe Textile Workers Union (ZTWU) has bemoaned rampant tax evasion, money laundering and other malpractices by some foreign companies who are slowly driving local entities out of business, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
ZTWU secretary general Mr Norman Makono said it was also crucial for Zimbabweans to buy locally manufactured products to ensure the industry’s survival in the wake of stiff competition from cheap smuggled imports.
“There are many unscrupulous foreign owned businesses in Zimbabwe that are defrauding ZIMRA and the Government, which in turn is threatening thousands of Zimbabwean jobs.”
“These companies are committing many money laundering crimes and don’t transact in the Zimbabwean currency. They have no respect for our Zimbabwean authorities or our laws,” said Mr Makono.
“When providing a receipt, they do not always show the currency of transaction and many still do not have fiscal printers. Cartel operators are hence prejudicing the Government and ZIMRA millions of United States dollars in tax revenue.”
Mr Makono said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was losing millions from each sale concluded in US dollars as the 2 percent interbank transfer charge could not be applied to their sales when only accepting cash.
“A large portion of the informal sector is flooded with contraband which includes blankets — sold openly in areas such as Gulf Market, Mbare Msika, Chitungwiza and Mbudzi roundabout. The sales are done only in US dollars cash and this is to avoid taxes.”
Mr Makono said any commercial quantity blanket importation was supposed to adhere to regulations by providing a valid import licence issued by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to authorities at the point of entry.
“If these traders are getting licences, then it needs to be investigated as to why, as we have entities that manufacture these products locally.”
Smuggling of blankets was mainly being facilitated by cross border bus crews and when being done in containers, the foreign entities were giving false declarations to avoid paying correct duties.
“We should not allow these acts in our country to affect our people. Many of the workers are losing their jobs as a result of these unscrupulous businesses.
“Therefore, as a trade union, we appeal to the authorities to intervene to protect the local industries and jobs at large. It is extremely important that we tighten up our border controls to save our local economy.”
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