Friday, 28 May 2021


Unscrupulous car dealers are importing hundreds of second hand vehicles duty free after conniving with dishonest civil servants to exploit a motor vehicle rebate meant to incentivise Government employees, it has been established.

Under Statutory 52 of 2019, all civil servants who have served for a continuous 10 years and are also in possession of a drivers licence qualify to import a vehicle of their choice duty free. The vehicle should be less than 10 years old and not cost more than US$10 000.

While Government boldly introduced the non-monetary incentive to boost worker morale and retain staff, the scheme has since been hijacked by criminal contents who are now using civil servants to import vehicles on their behalf.

Sources privy to the illegal transactions said most civil servants who can’t afford to import the vehicles are now charging a fee to assist car dealers enjoy the privilege.

For importing the vehicles on behalf of the car dealers, civil servants get a cut ranging from US$1000 to US $2000, depending on the type and model of the vehicle being imported.

“All the paper work will be in the name of the civil servant. These car dealers look for civil servants who meet the criteria of beneficiaries of the scheme and the vehicle is bought under their name. Armed with that purchase invoice, the civil servant applies to their respective parent ministry for consideration to enjoy rebate on the imported vehicle.

“The papers go through the various departments until an import licence is produced. That licence will be used by the said civil servant to collect the vehicle and bring it into the country duty free,” said a source privy to the illegal deals.

To dupe Zimra officers who make follow ups, said the source, the civil servant will put the address of the car dealer on the papers to indicate the car will be kept at that address.

“If the loss control officers are to conduct a visit, they will find the vehicle at the given address, thereby ruling out any foul play.

“After a year or so, the car is sold to an unsuspecting buyer. Usually Zimra makes follow ups during the first days or months of importing the car. As time progresses, their visits become less frequent,” said the source.

Zimra Chief Loss Control manager, Mr Tapiwa Manyika, said the authority has received several reports on the rampant abuse of the scheme.  

“When Government came up with this scheme, the general belief was that civil servants would utilize this scheme for their own benefit as they can only benefit once after every five years.

“However we have been receiving reports that this scheme is being abused. We are investigating the cases but I cannot tell you which ones as that will jeopardize our investigations.

“We conduct post clearance verification to establish whether the intended beneficiary of the scheme is rightfully benefiting from the imported vehicle. Site visits and other verification mechanisms are carried out to account for everything.

“In the event that we fish out abuse, the vehicle is impounded and the owner is ordered to pay the duty which would have been initially scrapped because of the rebate. In some cases we take the parties involved to the courts for prosecution,” he said.

Mr Manyika said such abuse is bleeding the country of huge amounts of foreign currency. He urged members of the public to report suspects.

“If you suspect that such crimes are being committed, make a report or just give us tip-offs. These things happen in the community and with assistance from members of the public, such vices will be curbed,’ he said.

Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Luxson Chananda said several reports have been received on the abuse of the vehicle import scheme. “This crime is normally categorised under fraud due to the gross misrepresentation involved.

“For cases of this nature to be investigated, there should be a complaint from ZIMRA if they discover that the person who benefitted from the scheme acted in bad faith.

“When such reports come our way, we arrest the offenders and charge them accordingly. There are cases where documents actually show that the imported vehicle was sold to a third party by the beneficiary before the lapse of five years as provided for by the law,” he said, although he couldn’t be drawn into revealing more details on current investigations.

A detective in the Vehicle Theft Squad who requested anonymity citing protocol said the abuse of the vehicle import facility is rampant.

He however said the cases are difficult to trace and investigate as the suspects have become crafty.

“For years, I have investigated several cases of this nature. These rebates did not start with the civil servants’ scheme. The physically challenged people’s scheme is also being abused. Beneficiaries are allowed to import vehicles duty free and some of them are using the same tricks that are now being employed by the civil servants.

“We usually get tip-offs from members of the public and investigations are carried out to ascertain whether a crime has been committed or not. However in most cases it is difficult to convict a person because no change of ownership of the car would have been done.

“In the absence of such documents, even when a third party has benefited, it is hard to arrest the culprit when all the paperwork is still in his/her name,” he said. Manica Post


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