By Thupeyo Muleya
At least 22 buses have been caught over the past two weeks leaving Beitbridge carrying goods smuggled across the Limpopo.
The National Security Taskforce recently deployed to Beitbridge Border Post has found that the smugglers are carrying goods across the Limpopo River well away from the bridges used by legitimate importers and then load these into buses heading out of Beitbridge along the two main highways to towns and cities across the country.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday said that between Friday and Sunday, eight buses that were intercepted and searched were carrying smuggled goods.
“Our teams are busy on the ground enforcing the law, and we want to strongly warn bus operators that they must not be used as conduits to transport contraband,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
“We have discovered that after using illegal crossing points, the smugglers are boarding intercity buses in Beitbridge heading to various towns in the country. Such actions are prejudicing the State a lot of potential revenue.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said police will descend heavily on both the smugglers and the bus operators who connive to break the law.
“You will note that the borders are currently closed to ordinary people, and hence some criminals are using undesignated entry points to bring in goods,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
The bulk of the smuggled goods include electrical appliances and groceries requiring payment of duty on import.
Asst Comm Nyathi said the police had deployed adequate forces and will continue adapting to all tactics used by criminals, so that they bring them to justice.
Near the border yesterday, 12 buses were still being processed by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).
While these importers were using the legal entry point, a border official said there were many cases of people under-declaring the goods to evade duty payment.
“The whole idea is to make people pay duty where it is due,” said the official.
“Nobody is being discouraged from importing goods as long as that is done within the confines of the law.”
A cross-border transporter, Mr Tendai Mujaji, said he was turned back to the border at a security check point at Bubi, some 80km north of Beitbridge along the Beitbridge-Masvingo Highway.
“Initially when we passed through here, we paid import duty for the goods we are carrying and now the goods have been re-assessed,” he said.
“We are yet to get feedback from the customs authority on whether we are paying duty top-up or being released.”
A traveller, Ms Patience Gumbo, said they were turned back 12km after leaving Beitbridge heading to Masvingo.
“We had hired a vehicle to bring our goods from South Africa which we then loaded in a Karoi-bound bus, but we were told that we need to get goods checked again for conformity by Zimra,” she said.
Zimra spokesperson Mr Francis Chimanda said he was yet to get an update on the Beitbridge situation where duty assessments for most goods were yet to be completed.
Zimra has also introduced a 100 percent search initiative on all cargo being carried in light commercial trucks with a carrying capacity of between 15 tonnes and 20 tonnes.
This followed an upsurge in a trend of false declarations by either the transporters or the importers. The Herald