Zimbabweans importing vehicles through the country’s borders, particularly Beitbridge and Plumtree, are now required to obtain number plates from the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) before leaving the ports of entry or the requisite transit-sheds where the import documents are processed.

Only vehicles imported by diplomats or registered car dealers are allowed to leave the border on temporary registration plates under the new order.

The rule, that started on Monday, is set to reduce or eradicate customs fraud following an increase in cases where vehicles are smuggled into the country and later fraudulently registered.

Customs fraud involves any knowing or negligent misrepresentations to the customs agency that polices a national border. It can be committed by an importer or an exporter.

It often involves mis-classifying a product or good or by understating (or, in rare cases, overstating) its value.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) started implementing the new regulations at Beitbridge and Plumtree on Monday. According to a Zimra official at Beitbridge, who declined to be named, customs clearing agents were advised of the latest move at the beginning of June.

The official said the law has always been there as provided by section 49A (Registration of imported vehicle) of the Customs and Excise Act Chapter 23:02 and the authority has decided to use it to curb rising cases of customs fraud.

“Imported vehicles shall be registered for the purposes of the Vehicle Registration and Licencing Act [Chapter 13.14] at the time entry is made in terms of section 40 — (a) on submission of an application on the prescribed form, and (b) on payment of the prescribed fee. Provided that vehicles to be warehoused in terms of section 70 shall be registered at the time the vehicle is taken out of the warehouse in terms of section 71. [Section inserted by Act 18 of 2000],” reads part of the section in the Act.

By the end of the day yesterday, most vehicle importers were still processing vehicle registration plates in line with the new regulations.

Prior to the latest developments,the car importers were releasing the vehicle from the border on temporary registration plates with a validity of 14 days.

However, Zimra decided to revise the system, realising the rise in import fraud involving mostly pre-owned cars.

In a public notice, Zimra said, “The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority advises members of the public, who intend to import vehicles through Plumtree Border Post, that with effect from July 1, 2024, all vehicles cleared at Plumtree Border Post would be required to obtain registration and number plates before release from Zimra.”

The same situation is applicable at the Beitbridge Border Post, where vehicle imports are processed at the border, at Manica, Malindi and Beitbridge Transit Sheds.

“Clients who wish to acquire motor vehicle registration books and number plates should have the following; valid police clearance stamped by Vehicle Theft Squad (VTS). The Form is valid for 14 days, original ASYCUDA receipt-of duty payment, and Original Insurance Cover Note accompanied by a photocopy of the same,” said Zimra in the public notice.

Other requirements are; proof of residence (utility bills), stamped and authorised by a commissioner of oaths, photocopy of national identity documents stamped and authorised by a commissioners of oaths, an affidavit or letter of authority stamped by the police or power of attorney stamped or notarised by a legal representative of the client authorising the registration of the motor vehicle on the owner’s behalf (where applicable) and copy of ID of the authorised person.

Zimra also requires an ID copy of the representative, valid Zimra stamped ID in the case where the representative is a registered clearing agent and, for immigrants/returning residents, original passport is required and all export documents from the shipping country and the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) certificate.

“No vehicle shall be released from Zimra custody without registration unless authority has been granted,” said Zimra.

Of late there has been an increase in vehicles smuggled into the country via illegal crossing points, which are fraudulently being registered in the country.

The Herald