Sunday, 22 July 2018

SOLDIERS FIRE SHOTS IN BEITBRIDGE

SOLDIERS manning Beitbridge Border Post had to fire warning shots yesterday to quell a potentially volatile situation after a rowdy crowd charged at customs officers after refusing to comply with border formalities.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s Loss Control department is conducting 100 percent searches on all imports coming via Beitbridge to maximise revenue inflows.

This move is reported to have angered cross border transporters commonly known as Omalayitsha.
“They started by staging a peaceful sit-in and the vehicles clogged the border as they protested a request by Zimra officials that those without travellers’ rebates for specified goods should pay duty,” said a border official.

“Upon realising that the customs authority was not relenting on its stance, the drivers thronged the search bays on the commercial side and disrupted operations. Some even attempted to drive off without being searched.

“The soldiers moved in when the protesters turned violent, throwing stones and shouting obscenities. They fired warning shots to disperse the crowd when efforts to calm the transporters proved fruitless.
“However, nobody was injured during the fracas which happened between 7am and 8am”.
Zimra’s Head of Communications Mr Taungana Ndoro said he was yet to get information on the border situation.

“I am yet to receive an update on that incident,” he said.
The Chronicle is reliably informed that the country is losing millions of dollars due to intrusive leakages and underhand dealings at Beitbridge border post and along the boundary line with South Africa.

In addition, Zimra is collecting at least $400 million from commercial cargo alone at Beitbridge Border Post annually.

“This is the third time this year where either Omalayitsha or haulage trucks drivers have protested over various issues to do with formalities and procedures at the border.
“It is very critical that the cross-cutting issues are addressed as a matter of urgency,” said a member of the Ferret team who preferred anonymity.

The Ferret team is made up of security forces, the police and Zimra’s anti-smuggling unit.
When our news crew visited the border post around midday yesterday, operations had normalised with the cross border drivers complying with customs laws.

Long winding queues of light vehicles and small trucks laden with an assortment of goods inched into the country.

Security personnel including soldiers, the police and guards employed by a private company were on patrol within the border arena.

In separate interviews, omalayitsha said although they would love to comply with the customs laws, Zimra had deployed inadequate staff to the search bays and cash counters resulting in the slow movement of traffic within the border.

“We don’t have a problem in paying duty,  but Zimra just doesn’t have the manpower for such a demanding task. They must review their operations.

“A situation where people spend close to six hours here (border) to access just one checkpoint is cumbersome,” said a driver who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation.
An estimated 1 500 light vehicles, most of these used by Omalayitsha, pass through Beitbridge Border Post daily.

Further, a total of 15 000 haulage trucks, 2 100 buses and 170 000 people use the same port of entry to access either Zimbabwe or South Africa per month. Chronicle

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