The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is spending at least $2.4 million on renting properties to house its workers at Beitbridge Border Post and is considering acquiring the former Beitbridge Express Hotel and 10 hectares of land to ease perennial accommodation woes.
Zimra among other key Government departments are operating with limited staff at the country’s and Sadc’s busiest inland port of entry due to accommodation challenges.
It is understood that the revenue authority needs an average of 500 workers at the border and the number is currently below 400 due to transfers, natural attrition and disciplinary actions, among other reasons.
In some instances, the many arms of the Government have to give extra load to the current workers and relative inefficiencies have been attributed to low manpower.
Zimra Commissioner-General Faith Mazani told Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube recently that the organisation was facing challenges with staff and accommodation shortages.
She said they were building another flat to house their workers.
Minister Ncube had visited Beitbridge to familiarise with operations there.
“At the moment we have limited staff at the border, though the few that are there are doing their best to collect revenue and minimise leakages.
“We are leasing the former Beitbridge Express hotel (for 48 workers) and are considering buying and annexing it to the proposed Zimra Village around the same area,” said Ms Mazani.
Beitbridge Express hotel, which was being operated by African Sun, was closed due to viability issues in 2016.
Zimra was allocated 10 hectares of land to build accommodation for its staff a decade ago under the Beitbridge Redevelopment Programme but the project is yet to see the light of the day.
The revenue authority’s regional manager for Beitbridge, Mr Innocent Chikuni told the minister and his team that customs work was more hands on, hence the need to address accommodation challenges to enable the deployment of more workers to the border.
“Our proposed solution is for authorities to increase funding for housing projects so that we may be able to operate with a full staff complement,” said Mr Chikuni.
“At the moment, Zimra is leasing 20 properties around this town, including the former Beitbridge Express Hotel and our rentals budget currently stands at $2.4 million. A total of 182 members, who constitute 49 percent of the staff, are housed in rented accommodation.
“Beitbridge Express Hotel is accommodating 48 officers and the situation is worsened by the fact that most property owners prefer rentals in forex and they have resorted to reviewing their leases quarterly.
“This is not sustainable,” he said.