Cross border transporters (Omalayitsha) are complaining about the continued fleecing and rent seeking activities orchestrated by border authorities at Zimbabwe’s ports of entry mainly Beitbridge Border Post.
The drivers are moving mainly groceries and basic commodities on behalf of the Zimbabweans in neighbouring countries.
These transporters, would before the beginning of lockdowns, in both Zimbabwe and South Africa (in April) move the goods for a fee in Toyota Quantums, but switched to mini commercial trucks that can carry anything from 10 to 20 tonnes.
The drivers told CITE that they are spending between four and five days to complete the border processes due to too much rent-seeking by either customs or security officials demanding bribes to speed up the processes.
“What is happening, is that we are now carrying the goods minus the owners and are paying all import duties before arrival at the borders.
The man said in some cases, even after paying the duty top up and spending days at the border, they would be harassed by security within the border and at road blocks along the major high ways.
“They are telling us the goods did not pay enough duty and we have to pay them or risk the properties being seized,” he continued.
Another Malayitsha identified only as Jabu said the harassment had reached alarming levels.
He said the practice by the customs authority (ZIMRA), which sees almost every transporter paying additional duty was creating problems in their line of business.
“When we pick these goods in South Africa, we charge people one price inclusive of import duties and transportation. Going back to request for further money is bad for business.
“ZIMRA should just charge us once to avoid this unnecessary problem,” said Jabu.
However, other drivers said only those who would have under-declared goods were being made to top up import duty.
“Some of these guys don’t want to pay the correct amount of duties so they don’t declare everything in their trucks and end up being delayed as they look for duty top up,” said one Sithole of Honde Valley.
Others said though they had no problems with ZIMRA implementing customs regulations, they had issues with the slower rate of physical searches.
The drivers said they are transporting mainly groceries (some of which are perishables) and electrical gadgets.
Though Zimra spokesperson, Francis Chimanda could not be reached for comment this week, he said in a recent media statement that they were closing all loopholes being exploited by smugglers.
“Random spot-checks and physical inspections have shown that the quantities, price points of imported materials have been falsely declared, defeating the purpose of Pre-payment and Pre-clearance, which is intended to ensure smooth clearance and facilitation of movement of people and goods,” he said.
Chimanda said the huge number of false declarations as shown by the amount of revenue recoveries from each truck has resulted in 100% physical checks.
He said the risk management system in use in Customs provides for customs intervention for shipments that provide the most risk.
“We have noted that almost all shipments under this category have false declarations in terms of quantity and values.
The goods in question are mostly groceries – cooking oil, bath soaps, washing powder, flour, etc. The selling prices of these goods in South Africa is well known and so false declarations are easy to find out,” said Chimanda.
He said when a client pre-clears it does not mean they may not be subject to compliance checks.
The legislation, he added provided for post clearance checks and these are based on risk.