By Sukulwenkosi Dube
PLUMTREE – The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has smashed a smuggling ring of mealie-meal from Botswana into the country involving four of its officers stationed at Plumtree Border Post. The four officers have since been suspended.
A Zimra worker stationed at the border who preferred anonymity said the officers (names supplied) who were employed under the commercial department and accused of conniving with a clearing agent have been allowing people to import mealie-meal from Botswana without permits over the past two months.
“Four of our officers were suspended on Saturday after being accused of corruption. Their duties involved marking off import permits for mealie-meal. Once a permit has been marked off it cannot be used again and the client needs to acquire another in order to facilitate another import,” said the source.
Most parts of Matabeleland South where Plumtree is situated have been facing serious food shortages and a number of enterprising people have taken to importing mealie-meal from neighbouring countries to make a living.
“However, it has been discovered that the officers along with a clearing agent were assisting importers to use the same permit repeatedly to import mealie-meal as they were not marking off the quantities of mealie- meal on the permit thereby enabling the importers to re-use their permits which is illegal,” he said.
The officer said this came to light after authorities discovered that the clearing agent had allowed someone to import 34 tonnes of mealie-meal using a permit which specified 30 tonnes.
“On the day that this scam was discovered, authorities realised that the four officers had connived with the clearing agent and had cleared 34 tonnes of mealie-meal while the import permit indicated 30 tonnes.
“Investigations which were then carried out revealed that the particular permit had been used to facilitate mealie-meal imports on four different occasions. This has been going on for about two months and the accused persons are suspected to have offered this assistance to a number of people,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Zimra chief corporate communications officer Mr Taungana Ndoro advised this reporter to put questions in writing. However, he later said he could not respond to the written questions as he was still awaiting clearance from his bosses. The Chronicle