By Mashudu Netsianda
A Bulawayo man based in South Africa is locked in a protracted legal battle with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) following the seizure of his car on allegations that it had a fake Temporary Import Permit (TIP).
Mr Nkululeko Sibanda’s car was impounded by Zimra two years ago after he allegedly presented a fake TIP to customs officials at Beitbridge Border Post.
He wants an order directing Zimra to release the car as well as declaring their demands for exorbitant fee unlawful.
Mr Sibanda, through his lawyers Mashindi and Associates, filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court, citing the Beitbridge regional manager and Zimra as respondents.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Sibanda said in April 2016, he applied for a TIP at Beitbridge Border Post for his car, a South African registered Ford Ranger 2000 model registration number CF 86TP GP.
“Upon payment of the required statutory fees, I was given the TIP and went to my intended destination. The TIP that I was furnished with has respondent’s stamps and I did not suspect anything was amiss,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said a month later he was involved in an accident on his way to Bulawayo and had to take the car to panel beaters.
“Sometime in August 2016 I approached the respondents at Beitbridge Border Post and had the TIP extended. The extension was done by the respondents through its officials,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said sometime on October 22, 2016, while going back to SA he was told at Beitbridge that his TIP was fake.
“This came as a shock because the respondent had issued me with the TIP. The TIP had respondent’s stamp on it and further I was given an extension by the respondents on that same TIP. I was arrested for contravening section 174 (1) (c) of the Customs and Excise Act Chapter 23:02 false representation with a fake temporary import permit. On January 10 2017, I was taken to Beitbridge magistrate court and prosecution was declined on the basis that there was no evidence that I knew that my TIP was fake.”
Mr Sibanda said when the court outcome was served to Zimra, the regional manager demanded the payment of a fine of US$2 000, carbon tax of $15, insurance of US$30 a further fine of US$400 for not acquiring TIP and payment of all storage charges amounting to US$1 700.
He argued that the fees were exorbitant and wrongful.
“The reason why respondents took me to Beitbridge magistrate Court was to secure a conviction from a competent court. The basis of paying a fine was a contravention of the same section that the State declined to prosecute for lack of evidence. The respondents have no basis whatsoever of holding onto my vehicle or demand further payment from me,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said despite several requests for the release of his car, Zimra continues to deny him access to it.
Zimra, through its lawyers Coghlan and Welsh Legal Practitioners, is challenging Mr Sibanda’s claim and has filed an application seeking dismissal for want of prosecution.
In his founding affidavit, Zimra regional manager for Beitbridge, Mr Innocent Chikuni argued that Mr Sibanda’s claim lacked merit. He said the documents Mr Sibanda intended to rely on were fake and as such Zimra acted in terms of the law.
“The respondent (Mr Sibanda) has not set the matter down for hearing. He has not done anything to prosecute this application since filing heads of argument and it appears, he is content with leaving the matter abeyance or that he simply realised that his application is void of merit,” said Mr Chikuni.
“In the circumstances, the applicant seeks the dismissal of the respondent’s court application as he has refused or neglected to set the matter down despite being reminded on several occasions.’
In its opposing affidavit, Zimra said Mr Sibanda failed to comply with the provisions of section 193 (12) of the Customs and Excise Act.
“Section 193 (12) of the Customs and Excise Act, which should be read together with section 196 of the Act, makes it clear that any person seeking the recovery of such seized goods before this honourable court must institute civil proceedings for the recovery of such goods within three months from the date when the notice of seizures were issued and served upon on such person,” said Zimra lawyers. The Chronicle