Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
Beitbridge police have arrested 35 people carrying an assortment of goods worth thousands of dollars, which they had smuggled into the country through an illegal crossing point located less than a kilometre from the main port of entry.
The gang was arrested last Monday night as the police intensify efforts to reduce intrusive leakages along Zimbabwe’s border with South Africa.
The suspects who have since been charged with smuggling, were carrying electrical gadgets including fridges, 275 litres of petrol, groceries and drums.
The value of the goods is yet to be ascertained.
The police officer commanding Beitbridge, Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo confirmed the arrests yesterday.
“I can confirm that we arrested 35 people on Monday evening at the spill way near the Old Limpopo River.
“These were carrying an assortment of goods they had smuggled from South Africa. The goods have been taken to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority for value and import duty calculations,” he said.
The official said deployments had been made to ensure that criminal activities were dealt with accordingly along the river.
Zimbabwean and South African security has since the start of the lockdown in April been intensifying patrols to minimise the illegal movement of both people and goods.
This is also done to reduce the rate of the spread of Covid-19 in the two neighbouring countries.
The South Africans are intercepting mainly cigarettes, while Zimbabwean authorities are arresting people with an assortment groceries and electrical gadgets.
Presently the border is closed to non-essential human traffic and the development has led to an upsurge in smuggling and border jumping.
Last week, security officials in Beitbridge intercepted six people who had smuggled goods worth R1, 3 million and attracting an estimated import duty of $4 million.
The suspects had declared that they were shipping maize meal and diapers but it turned out they were transporting groceries from South Africa to Harare.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (ZIMRA) regional manager for Beitbridge, Mr Innocent Chikuni recently told the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube that they had intercepted 21 commercial trucks smuggling into the country an assortment goods worth millions of dollars.
“Working with other stakeholders we have been able to seize goods from 56 offenders and impounded 22 motor vehicles between April and May at undesignated entry points along the Limpopo River,” said Mr Chikuni.
“In addition, smuggling activities through the border post are surging because of the increased traffic. Between March and May we recorded 81 seizures including 21 commercial trucks & trailers.
“We are now looking at increased automation of most processes and concentration of staff to control of high-risk cargo to minimise smuggling through the main port of entry. On the river front, we believe that if we deploy more human and material resources to man or patrol the undesignated entry points, we can make head way. However, accommodation shortages are our greatest undoing as we wish to have more hands on the ground.”