Cross border traders dribble Covid-19 regulations

Zimbabwe’s cross border traders have devised new ways to stay in business, albeit dribbling past Covid-19 regulations.

The cross border traders now known as runners move goods inland using commercial trucks that are exempted from lock-down regulations.

The smuggling racket appears wide and deep with soldiers and police officers manning both sides of the border allegedly accepting inducements to turn a blind eye.

The smuggling web, happening in the full glare of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) employees ensures “safe” passage of goods at the country’s border.

“When the goods come to the border posts, they are then smuggled into the country, with mostly Zimra officials complicit,” said an official at a border post who preferred anonymity.

Cross-border traders, who make their living from buying and selling goods sourced from neighbouring countries, are using the reach of social media to reach out to clients.

This publication understands that products which eventually find their way to Zimbabwe are flighted on social media platforms, with the locals being asked to first send money towards their purchase (which includes transportation) through mobile cash transactions to selected agents.

Upon receipt of the cash, dealers in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa would then send the goods to Zimbabwe through either haulage trucks or informal truckers (malayitshas).

The goods would either be destined for the border post or directly to their owners in Zimbabwe.

Investigations by Zim Morning Post unearthed a scandal at one of the border posts, with ZIMRA officials said to be abetting the smuggling into the country of an assortment of goods.

“In the end, Zimbabweans pay more than 30 percent of the total cost of the imported goods. But that is not the full story. More often than not, one ends up with a cheaper alternative quality of goods they would initially have chosen to purchase,” Francis Sidovo, who claimed to be a victim of the import scam, said.

The country closed its borders on March 30 to stop the spread of coronavirus, but desperate traders are resorting to using illegal entry points into South Africa and Mozambique to source merchandise, which they smuggle back into Zimbabwe.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi, recently warned smugglers operating along Zimbabwe’s borders with South Africa and Mozambique pose a serious threat to efforts to contain the coronavirus.