Govt to introduce drones at border posts

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE country’s porous border posts will soon be under tight surveillance following Government’s decision to acquire drones worth US$2 million to patrol the borderline to curb smuggling.

The drones will be used at all ports of entry to reduce smuggling with plans also at an advanced stage to place a CCTV camera system at border posts.

The tendering of the required equipment to improve security is at an advanced stage.

The country is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue as a result smuggling of goods into the country through official borders and undesignated points.

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana.

These countries provide a direct link to seaports through which the goods can be imported to Zimbabwe or exported.

Zimbabwe has 16 designated ports of entry along the borderline with neighbouring countries through which goods can be imported or exported.

Huge consignments of goods such as clothing items, footwear products, fuel, restricted or controlled goods, electrical items, alcoholic beverages, motor vehicles, wildlife, minerals, tobacco products and many others are smuggled into or out of the country using both the designated and illegal crossing points resulting in Government losing revenue.

Finance and Economic Development Deputy Minister Clemence Chiduwa recently told Parliament that drones will soon be deployed following the announcement in the 2021 National Budget.

“The tendering process of the drones’ project is now at an advanced stage. In addition, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has appointed a manager responsible for border surveillance who will work with the security management unit and security forces in order to ensure the borderline is secure,” he said.

Deputy Minister Chiduwa’s remarks were in response to issues raised by the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development after its familiarisation tour of the six border posts last year.

The team visited Kariba, Chirundu, Forbes, Beitbridge, Plumtree and Kazungula border posts.
Deputy Minister Chiduwa said the staff establishment of Zimra is under review following the approval of the utility’s structure by the board.

“I wish to advise that progress has been made to capacitate Zimra with operational motor vehicles which are key for staff mobility, particularly at border posts,” he said.

Deputy Minister Chiduwa said last year Zimra received 20 vehicles and this year it bought 20 Land Cruiser off-road vehicles.

He said plans to purchase additional 85 vehicles comprising 35 double-cabs and 50 Sedans are at an advanced stage with the first batch expected soon.

In a statement recently, Zimra said plans are at an advanced stage to place a CCTV camera system at border posts and strategic areas. The CCTV system will be linked to a loss control command centre at Zimra head office that will have sight of the footage live feed from the border post.

Zimra also said it will continue to enforce controls to avoid importation of restricted or prohibited goods through the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS).

Last year, it sealed 35 076 trucks which gave the authority about US$1 million in sealing fees and $217 000 from fines.

The ECTS uses GPS/GPRS technology for tracking.

Electronic seals are affixed to cargo containers, box trucks, soft sided trucks (flat decks with side curtains), tankers and break bulk (goods under tarpaulin).

The electronic seals send regular signals to the control room to show the location of the cargo.

Zimra said it will submit position papers to ensure the system which was imported will be produced locally in partnership with other domestic players who will be required to benchmark against international best practice.

The ECTS that Zimra uses is from Malaysia and there is a keen interest from the Government to use a locally produced system.

The aim is to expand the transit economy with Zimbabwe acting as a transit hub in the region.

Zimbabwe intends to adopt and implement the concept of dry ports in areas such as Makuti and Forbes. — @mashnets

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