By Thupeyo Muleya
Fifty-four buses transporting smuggled goods worth over US$20 million have been intercepted since the beginning of March.
As a result of the smuggling, the country has been losing millions of dollars in potential import revenue.
An official within the national security cluster said between March 1 and April 28, they intercepted 54 buses carrying an assortment of smuggled goods worth over $20 million.
“We have been intercepting some of the buses at security checkpoints between Beitbridge and Harare and Bulawayo,” said the official.
“We have established that in most cases the smugglers are using illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River to bring in commercial goods which they then load in buses at Dulivhadzimu bus terminus for onward transmission to various towns and cities nationwide”.
Government deployed the National Security Taskforce on January 5 at the recommendation of the National Joint Operations Committee (JOC), following numerous reports of smuggling and other criminal activities at the country’s border with South Africa.
A survey by Chronicle revealed that most dealers are travel to the border town of Beitbridge and illegally cross into South Africa through various entry points, and then bring back hordes of goods for resale.
They then load in intercity buses at Dulivhadzimu bus terminus, which is handling an average of 10 buses daily down from 30 due to strict Covid-19 regulations being implemented by the Government.
Common goods that are being smuggled into the country include building material, vehicles, fuel, livestock, flea market wares, illicit medicines, groceries, fuel, tyres, genetically modified (GMOs) vegetables and fruits, electrical gadgets, and vehicles among others.
Minerals, cigarettes and stolen livestock are also being smuggled out of the country.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they had resorted to naming and shaming bus companies that are being used to smuggle goods and transport contrabands.
He said they were also engaging the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, to revoke or suspend operating licenses and permits for those bus operators found on the wrong side of the law.
“The rate at which we are intercepting buses which are being used to smuggle goods into the country or carry contrabands is alarming.
“Now we have resorted to naming and shaming those bus companies involved in such criminal activities,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said they had also established that the syndicates were working with bus crews who in some instances pretend to be transporting returnees from South Africa.
“Fortunately, these where criminals are being intercepted while or after smuggling goods of commercial nature into the country,” he added.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police will descend heavily on both the smugglers and the bus crews conniving to break the law.
Zimra spokesperson Mr Francis Chimanda said between March 21 and March 29 four buses were intercepted between Harare and Beitbridge and were referred for physical examination at the border post.
He said the authority collected additional import revenue of $1,917,684.00 which included $958,842.00 duty payable and an equal amount in fines.
Mr Chimanda said they had introduced the 100 percent searches on all cargo mostly being following an upsurge in a trend of false declarations by either the transporters or the importers. The Chronicle