Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Zimra will not relent on its mandate to collect revenue to fund the Government’s commitments and importers and exporters must comply with the law and use the facilities provided to facilitate trade and travel.
The has been rampant abuse of import laws with many people falsifying or understating the values and amount of shipments, especially those coming from South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post.
In a statement issued last week, Zimra said this has prompted it to introduce 100 percent searches recently on all consolidated private imports cargo after picking a lot of rent-seeking activities by importers and transporters.
Consolidated cargo is when a number of importers pack their goods into the same truck, and thus is the transport method used by smaller importers and even cross-border traders, most of whom used to import goods as accompanied luggage before Covid-19. It contrasts to the major importers where the cargo aboard a truck belongs to just one company.
In May, the authority introduced a facility to allow Zimbabweans in South Africa to send parcels home as consolidated cargo to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on many who used to collect the goods in person.
“This facility has always been available for commercial imports. However, random spot-checks and physical inspections have shown that the quantities and price points of imported materials have been falsely declared, defeating the purpose of pre-payment and pre-clearance, which is intended to ensure smooth clearance and facilitation of movement of people and goods,” said Zimra.
The organisation said there was relative congestion of rigid trucks at Beitbridge Border Post due to ongoing measures to enforce customs laws.
According to the statement, cross-border bus operators and commercial truckers were now abusing the private imports facility. “The facility makes it mandatory for every omalayitsha to make a declaration and pay duty before they cross the border. There is no rebate applicable as these goods are unaccompanied by their real owners
“However, the huge number of false declarations as shown by the amount of revenue recoveries from each truck has resulted in 100 percent physical checks,” said the statement.
It is understood that almost all shipments under this category have false declarations in terms of quantity and values. The goods are mostly groceries – cooking oil, bath soaps, washing powder and flour.
“The selling prices of these goods in South Africa is well known and so false declarations are easy to find out. When a client pre-clears it does not mean they may not be subject to compliance checks. The legislation provides for post clearance checks and these are based on risk. It should be noted that Beitbridge used to clear about 80 buses per day before Covid-19 came in.
“The former bus operators have now joined the omalayitsha and have replaced the buses with rigid trucks,” said Zimra.
The organisation said the 100 percent searches were bearing fruit and that as of Thursday alone, they conducted 159 searches and recovered additional revenue amounting to $6.1 million.
Zimra says it has opened up more search points and increased staff numbers at Beitbridge to strengthen its capacity to enforce customs laws.
“Our mandate still remains to collect revenues for the Government and ultimately the nation.
“In instances where corruption, smuggling and illegal activities are occurring, Zimra will use its authority as provided for in the laws of the land to ensure that the nation is not prejudiced through revenue leakage,” it said.