Zimra intensifies efforts to curb drug smuggling

HARARE - Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has intensified efforts to curb smuggling of dangerous substances at the country’s ports of entry, a Zimra official said yesterday.

Gershem Pasi, Zimra commissioner general said 15 dogs have been dispatched to various border posts and Zimra is in the process of initiating a dog breeding regime.

“We are a drug transit zone as a country and it is in the interest of the public that our canine officers be stationed at the various points of entry,” the Zimra boss said.

Government declared Beitbridge Border Post a security zone in 2004 and the National Taskforce on Image, Communication, and Tourism adopted a zero tolerance for crime.

“We have now embarked on setting up a canine unit because we have realised that there is need to accelerate this process that we have had in our plans for a couple of years, but the issue of resources had been a stumbling block.

“We have realised that if we do not act now, not only is Zimbabwe going to be a major transit for drugs and other substances but will slowly become a user of those very harmful drugs,” said Pasi.

The authority is working in conjunction with local agencies that have expertise in training dogs for detecting various substances. The dogs undergo training at a base in Harare while a further 44 are expected from South Africa to bring the total to 54 dogs.

The establishment of the canine unit is expected to complement measures already in place to fight smuggling such as the use of scanners, border patrols, roadblocks in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, cargo tracking, risk profiling, and information dissemination.

Government is the weakest link in efforts to improve pitiful infrastructure at Beitbridge Border Post, a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) official has said.

Pasi told an International Customs Day commemoration in Harare yesterday that although government expected efficiency from the revenue collecting authority, it did not put in place proper infrastructure to facilitate the efficiency.

“Beitbridge has been giving us a challenge, I can confirm. We submit revenue to the Treasury but our working conditions are dilapidated,” he said.

“We had plans to upgrade Beitbridge Border Post since 2001 but virtually nothing has happened at the station.

“Officers operating under difficult circumstances cannot be expected to produce maximum results. The government in demanding efficiency is rather asking for too much,” the Zimra boss said.

Conditions at Beitbridge, one of the Sadc region’s busiest ports, have long been a cause for concern with little action.

Charles Gwede, assistant immigration manager-in-charge at Beitbridge Border Post last year told the parliamentary committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion that infrastructure was in a dilapidated state.

“The infrastructure at Beitbridge is not compatible with the volume of traffic that we handle every day especially during peak periods. Government needs to act and address the situation” Gwede said.

Vice president and chief economist of the African Development Bank, Zimbabwean-born Mthuli Ncube is on record as saying the failure to spruce up the image of the border post and under-staffing cost up to $35 million annually.

The volume of traffic can average more than 12 000 travellers and 3 500 vehicles a day during the festive season.

“The delays, high congestion and inefficient service delivery experienced on the Beitbridge border are very costly in terms of waiting time (ranging between 33 to 45 hours) and transaction costs (ranging from $29,3 million to $35 million a year).

“Those costs are limiting the prospects for intra-regional trade expansion.

“Improving the operational effectiveness of the border post, and hence reducing clearance waiting times and transaction costs, through the establishment and effective implementation of a one-stop border post is imperative,” Ncube was quoted as saying.

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