By A Correspondent| Desperate citizens seeking borehole drilling services have raised alarm over a borehole drilling scam allegedly being spearheaded by some illegal Indian immigrants who are fronting local agents in soliciting clients before extorting lots of money or delivering cheap quality service.
A farmer in Bluegrass plots near Ingezi Kadoma, Tendai Chikandamina fell into the hands of these scammers and lost a lot of money after being lured by their attractive service fees catalogue he came across on social media.
Speaking on his experience, Chikandamina said after a long search for cheaper boreholes on the internet he finally found the best rates through a borehole drilling Facebook page called Aqua Blue Borehole Zim charging at least US$500 for a 40 meter pegged hole and US$900 for 80+ meters inclusive of other additional charges such as siting fees.
“I was attracted by their fairly cheaper prices and their customer care, quicker responses on Facebook convinced me to try them. I immediately paid my first half payment through Ecocash transfer and agreed with the company that the other half will be settled when they come to the site” he said
He added that in two days, three local men from the contracted borehole drilling company came to his Farm with a rig-truck saying they had traveled from Harare, surprisingly they demanded their full payment before the job, which he paid, only to realise he had been scammed as they did not return to the site after requesting just a few minutes to top-up their rig with fuel and engine oil at a nearby garage.
Police investigations into that matter revealed that the rig was registered through Central Vehicle Registration (CVR) under a named Indian company, but the company denied its ownership stating it had auctioned the rig and other fleet three years ago.
An investigation carried by Zimbabwe Sentinel established that some of the Indians rigs are not registered and are using Temporary Import Permits for the vehicles.
Another survey carried by Sunday News Business in parts of the country established a worrying increase in the number of companies purportedly rendering borehole drilling services with a significant number of the companies being identical to an Indian community address book an indicator that the community might have leads in the ongoing borehole drilling scam
This investigation forced authorities in some towns to pull down posters and advertisements of some unverified borehole drilling service providers however, the generality of citizens have accused the same authorities for allegedly conduiting this ‘corrupt syndicate’.
Local citizens have remained skeptical on why this sudden mushrooming borehole business is allegedly privately owned by foreign nationals but, publicly disguised as locally run business?
Last year, a number of local newspapers carried a story that illegal Indian borehole drillers convened a private meeting to strategise on how they can take over the entire country using their capital and political influence.
Local citizens, who are almost taxed in everything be it goods or services have pleaded with government to investigate these illegal immigrants who are evading Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), NSSA’s mandatory 1% tax and not contributing to Zimbabwe Development Fund (Zimdef) defrauding the nation of the much needed revenue.
A source working closely with one of these Indian companies indicated that a company with one rig is getting untaxed revenues estimated at US$45000 per month, this means that a company with at least two rigs will have an average of US$100 000 every month.
The source also indicated that these companies were also exploiting desperate local citizens who front as agents to solicit more clients and sometimes negotiate with the police when caught on the wrong side of the law.
“A company with at least two rigs can have at least 25 agents to market and solicit for more business opportunities.These agents are paid for every business they bring, for example if one solicits for a US$1000 business he or she gets at least US$50 to US$100. This has however, resulted in extortion of unsuspecting customers as they try to maximize their earnings” the source said
Citizens have urged the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to also investigate if these illegal Indian immigrants are not working in cahoots with people in immigration department to avoid deportation.
Some verified borehole drilling companies who spoke to this publication confirmed receipt of several complaints from the public over poor services and how they are being extorted of their hard earned money by these dodgy drilling companies.
“I want to confirm receipt of several complaints from the general citizens who are unsatisfied or have fallen victims of these illegal companies. Though, we do not have powers to curb this menace, as registered tax obliged businesses we are not happy with what is happening on the ground as this has also soiled our industry reputation in the mud” said the one borehole company brand and marketing manager who preferred anonymity.