Zim revenue collector to use drones to curb smuggling

Zimbabwe’s revenue collection body, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority says it has will set aside US$2 million to purchase drones that will be used to help curb smuggling and other illegal activities at the country’s ports of entry.

A department falling under the finance ministry, ZIMRA of course are more worried about losing revenue – the country is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue as a result smuggling of goods into the country through official borders and undesignated crossing points – but there are far deeper cross-border criminal activities happening across the landlocked country’s boundaries, which are equally harmful to its economic progress.

“ZIMRA will move with speed to procure drones worth an estimated US$2 million that will be used at all ports of entry to reduce smuggling and underhand deals,” the country’s state revenue collecting agency said in a statement yesterday.

“Plans are also 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.”

The biggest trouble is on the country’s eastern border with Mozambique, which is defined by nothing but markings on the ground; hence it is rife with smuggling of bales of second-hand clothing from the Beira sea port for resale in Zimbabwe. It is 1,231 kilometres of land unpunctuated by any meaningful geographical barriers, which smugglers have abused with gusto.

And not only smugglers, but rustlers too, who have taken advantage of the porous border to siphon stolen stock out of Zimbabwe into Mozambique.

Cross border stock theft problems are also rife along the border with Zambia, especially in the areas near Victoria Falls, where rustlers have found shallow points along the Zambezi River where they would drive the stolen cattle across.  

The country also has to grapple with poaching activities in the Hwange National Park, where poachers use all manner of inhuman means to kill animals like elephants and hippos so they can harvest their tusks and horns, and flee across the river into Zambia.

Well over 600 elephants have been lost in the neighbouring game parks of Zimbabwe and Botswana after poachers poisoned water sources frequented by elephants with cyanide.  

The idea of drones as a surveying accessory along the border in Zimbabwe was first brought to the fore last year by the country’s home affairs ministry, which was concerned with illegal immigration, especially along the border with South Africa.

“We have increased deployment of security personnel along our borders, especially in Beitbridge where smuggling and border jumping are rampant,” Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe said last September. “We are aware the border stretch is quite long and therefore; it is impossible to have adequate manpower at each and every point.

“We have beefed up security personnel, but over and above that, we are also in the process of deploying new technologies and so far, Treasury has bought drones to be deployed to patrol those areas.”

Besides using drone technology, ZIMRA also plans to improve central circuit television (CCTV) systems at its ports of entry as well as Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) to restrict the importation of prohibited goods into the country.

Besides clothing items, other goods popular with smugglers include fuel, restricted or controlled goods, electrical items, alcohol, motor vehicles, wildlife, minerals and tobacco products, which are smuggled into or out of the country using both the designated and undesignated crossing points, defrauding the government of revenue.

The revenue collector’s statement did not give a clue as to how many drones it plans to buy with its budget; neither has it mentioned whether it has gone to tender for the drones yet, or when they will start operating.


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