THE Government is beefing up security along its border with South Africa to curb intrusive leakages and other rent-seeking activities which could be costing the country over US$1 billion annually in unpaid customs duty.
Organised evasion of duty is also compromising State development projects and the viability of businesses that abide by all customs requirements.
State Security Minister, Owen Ncube said yesterday that the Government had noted with concern the level of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The Minister visited Beitbridge Border Post yesterday with senior members of the Sub-National JOC (Joint Operations Command) to assess the state of security and the level of crime along the borderline.
Among those who accompanied him are Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda, Air Marshal Elson Moyo (Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander), State Security Director General Ambassador Isaac Moyo and other senior security officials.
The team also visited the River Ranch illegal crossing point which is 30km east of the main port of entry.
This is a common area used by smugglers due to its close proximity to both the Beitbridge to Bulawayo and Beitbridge to Harare highways.
According to Minister Ncube, the common goods that are being smuggled into the country include building material, explosives, flea market wares, illicit medicines, groceries, fuel, and electrical gadgets, among others.
“This can’t go on forever. We are here today with all heads of security in the country,” said the Minister.
“We have seen and noted where the leakages are coming from and we are going to be addressing the issues with immediate effect. We want to seal all the porous routes/areas between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“The country is losing a lot of revenue in customs duty to well organised syndicates and let those involved in such vices know that the honeymoon will soon be over”.
The Minister said they had also taken note of recommendations by various arms of the Government which have visited the border line before.
He said they had agreed in principle with all heads in the security cluster to speed up and upgrade security to boost the country’s capacity to collect more revenue through all the formal channels.
Some of the proposals include the grading of a patrol road, motorising patrols, and the deployment of more staff, and the use of hi-tech equipment and specialised sniffer dogs.
Currently, security agencies are relying on tip offs to effect arrests of mineral smugglers.
Chronicle gathered that on the export side, both small-time and well-established dealers are smuggling mainly minerals, cigarettes, and stolen livestock.
It has also been established that one of the reasons for smuggling is purported repressive import regimes in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In addition, the vice has often been attributed to the economic situation in Zimbabwe where some goods are hardly available on the local market.
At times those that are locally manufactured are beyond the reach of the ordinary citizen.
Zimbabwe imports goods worth billions of United States dollars from its neighbour annually and according to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) they are collecting more than $150 million in import duty at Beitbridge weekly.
On the other hand, South Africa is intercepting Zimbabwean cigarettes worth millions of rand around Limpopo Province almost daily.
Investigations by our news crew reveal that it is difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa due to high excise duty rates in that country (on tobacco or cigarettes).
This state of affairs has created room for smugglers to use the illegal route to put the product on the black market.