By Thupeyo Muleya
AUTHORITIES at Beitbridge Border Post have started investigating the cause of a fire which razed down a State warehouse and property worth thousands of dollars at the port of entry yesterday.
Though official comment could not be obtained from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (Zimra) communications department, officials here said the matter was under investigation.
They said the fire broke out between 6AM and 7AM at the export warehouse near the section where commercial trucks are checked for compliance before leaving for South Africa.
When our news crew visited the scene yesterday, firemen from Zimra, NOIC, Beitbridge and Musina Municipalities were struggling to put out the fire until 2PM.
The warehouse was full of goods mostly seized from travellers for non-compliance with customs laws during the past 18 months.
Under normal circumstances, such goods are disposed of through rummage (auction) sales after three months.
According to Zimra’s website, the latest rummage sale of mostly vehicles and groceries was conducted in Beitbridge on 26 October last year.
Witnesses said the fire was reported by one of the private security guards at the warehouse, who noticed smoke bellowing out through several openings.
“The guard alerted his superiors and through the CPU, fire tenders from Zimra, NOIC, Municipalities of Beitbridge and Musina were then summoned to the scene,” said the official. “However, Zimra’s fire tender failed to start maybe due to lack of servicing.”
District CPU chairperson Mrs Kiliboni Ndou-Mbedzi, who is also the District Administrator, said they were working with border officials and other stakeholders on the way forward.
“We are yet to get the cause of the fire and value of the destroyed property,” she said.
“This is a very unfortunate incident considering that recently, sections of the border’s arrivals’ side were blown off by storms, among other key infrastructure.
“In addition, we are still attending to issues where schools, clinics and homesteads in rural Beitbridge were destroyed by hailstorms.”
The warehouse on the export side becomes the fourth in a few years to go up in smoke at the border post.
In 2016, another warehouse on the import side went up in flames destroying property worth millions.
The fire was attributed to an electrical fault.
In July of the same year, another State warehouse was looted and burnt by protestors under the banner of the Combined Beitbridge Residents Association.
They were were demonstrating against the implementation of Statutory Instrument 64, which removed specified goods from the open general import licence.
In November 2014, property worth millions of dollars went up in flames when the main Zimra warehouse caught fire under unclear circumstances. The Chronicle