The decision to search all trucks entering Zimbabwe in the last three months has netted the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (zimra) an extra $19,6 million in customs fees and penalties from 1 256 trucks between June 1 and September 7, whose cargoes were not accurately described on their entry papers.
Almost all the offending trucks are operated by cross-border transporters commonly known as Omalayitsha.
These combine small cargoes into a single load, often the groceries and other goods being sent home to families by Zimbabweans working in South Africa.
As a result of the search policy over the last few days, trucks used by the Omalayitsha have been piling up at Beitbridge after zimra tightened screws further on smuggling.
The cross-border transporters were allowed to operate after zimra activated an imports relief facility to help Zimbabweans based in South Africa send goods home when lockdown rules in both countries halted the old practice of these goods being carried physically across the border as accompanied baggage.
zimras Head Corporate Communications, Mr Francis Chimanda said yesterday that the authority was concerned with the rampant increase in cases of under-declaration by those shipping goods under the consolidated cargo facility.
“It is correct that every consolidated truck (Omalayitsha) is searched because all their declarations are incorrect insofar as the quantities and values are concerned,” he said.
“The risk management system in use in Customs provides for customs intervention in shipments that provide the most risk. We have noted that almost all, if not all, shipments under this consolidated category have false declarations in terms of quantity and values.”
Mr Chimanda said zimra were clearing an average of 16 rigid trucks carrying mostly groceries — cooking oil, bath soaps, washing powder and flour — and at times furniture, among other assorted goods daily. Although all cargoes are supposed to be cleared in advance with the new facility of pre-clearance and pre-payment, the Omalayitsha are not playing by the rules.
It only takes one of those filling a truck to cheat for the whole shipment to be incomplete.
Mr Chimanda said before the lockdown in March, Omalayitsha contributed very little to the fiscus since the small pick-ups and huge trailers commonly used to haul the goods made searches and duty payments difficult.
The use of the travellers rebate muddied waters and gave rebates on duty.
Under the new systems, it is easy to see what is supposed to be in the truck and a quick search finds out what is actually in the truck and as there are no people crossing the border, there are no travellers rebates, so calculations are simple.
“The current scenario makes it mandatory for every Omalayitsha to make a declaration and pay duty before they cross the border,” said Mr Chimanda. “There is no false claim to rebate as these goods are unaccompanied by their real owners.”
zimra had noted that most importers were making false declarations believing that because they would have paid a small amount of duty, they will not be subjected to further compliance checks.
The revenue authority had also discovered an increase in the number of commercial consignments which are disguised as consolidated private imports.
Such goods, said Mr Chimanda, required submission of a bill of entry and this then delayed finalisation of the processes.
“Most of those who used light vehicles for shipments used the false claim of travellers’ rebate using people in and around Beitbridge,” he said. “Presently, it is no longer possible since no private persons are crossing the border due to the lockdown regulations in both countries.”