MUTARE – Deployment of armed soldiers at the Forbes Border Post is doing little in preventing the rampant smuggling of goods.
Investigations by the Eastern News showed that there has not been any changes of smugglers’ modus operandi in spite of the presence of armed soldiers who are positioned outside the border.
Carriers who traffic contraband through the bush and hand it over just outside the entrances and exit points are still continuing untroubled by the military’s presence.
“Nothing has changed at all. It’s still business as usual,” a cross-border trader who had just had some of her goods shipped through the bush said.
Intelligence and police sources say while the military was deployed soon after the end of Operation Restore Legacy in an effort to curb corruption and smuggling of goods, their brief appears not clear.
“The problem with the arrangement is that there is no clearly laid out procedures on how they would be doing things,” a police officer said.
Smuggling of goods into the country has been hurting the country’s ailing economy which resulted in the collapse of many companies. Arresting illegal imports is therefore seen as a key factor in efforts to protect local industries.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries vice president Richard Chiwandire blamed smuggling for price distortions, suffocating industry and keeping people out of jobs.
“Local jobs are affected in a big way as companies that manufacture the affected products are now operating at very low and unviable capacity utilisation levels.
“More companies will be forced to scale down operations or close shop if smuggling is not stopped,” Chiwandire said.
Chiwandire urged government to tighten security at the country’s border posts and international airports as it is losing millions in revenue.
“Government is losing millions if not billions in duty revenue and there is need for relevant arms of government to come up with a strategy to stop smuggling,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive Christopher Mugaga estimates that Zimbabwe could be losing $1,5 billion every year through smuggling of goods.
The figure is more than one third of the country’s $4 billion National Budget.