In the pursuit of curbing the amplified smuggling and other interdicted cross-border activities, the Zimbabwe Government has said it is now beefing up security at its border with South Africa.

Speaking during a tour of the Beitbridge Border Post with senior members of the Sub-National JOC (Joint Operations Command) yesterday, Minister of State Security Owen Ncube said there has been rampant smuggling of building materials, explosives, flea market wares, illicit medicines, groceries, fuel, and electrical gadgets, among others.

The tour was aimed at assessing the state of security and the level of crime along the borderline.

According to a report in one state daily, the intrusive leakages and other rent-seeking activities at the borderline could be costing the country over US$1 billion annually in unpaid customs duty.

“This can’t go on forever. We are here today with all heads of security in the country,” Minister Ncube said.

“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,” he said.

According to the Minister, 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.

In the wake of the borderline challenges, some of the proposals noted 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.
At the present moment, security agencies are relying on tip offs to effect arrests of mineral smugglers.

Organised evasion of duty is also compromising State development projects and the viability of businesses that abide by all customs requirements.

Among those who accompanied the state security minister 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 high-powered delegation also visited the River Ranch illegal crossing point which is 30km east of the main port of entry.

River Ranch is a common area used by smugglers who take advantage of the area’s 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.

Ncube also said Government had taken note of recommendations by various arms of the Government which have visited the border line before.

Every year, the landlocked southern African country mports goods worth billions of United States dollars from South Africa.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) says it collects more than $150 million in import duty at Beitbridge on a weekly basis.

On the other hand, South Africa is said to be intercepting Zimbabwean cigarettes worth millions of rands around Limpopo Province almost daily.

Investigations by the state-owned Chronicle 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).

As a result, this creates room for smugglers to use the illegal route to put the product on the flourishing parallel market.

state media/Zwnews