Stop the rot at border posts

26 Aug, 2016 - 00:08 0 Views
Stop the rot at border posts

The Herald

Beitbridge Border ost has become a haven for corruption among Customs, Immigration, Police and other senior Government officials, who between tem pocket a cool R600 000 a day, according to conservative estimates

Beitbridge Border ost has become a haven for corruption among Customs, Immigration, Police and other senior Government officials, who between tem pocket a cool R600 000 a day, according to conservative estimates

Lloyd Gumbo : Mr Speaker, Sir

The recent transfer of police officers from Beitbridge district and the impending transfer of officials from other departments over alleged corruption at the border came as good news to the majority of Zimbabweans but yet another sign of impunity to some of us. Mr Speaker, reports abound that officials at the country’s borders, including those from Zimra and security departments, take bribes with reckless abandon.It has been raised on several occasions that some of the Zimra officials are living large to the extent that they are able to buy properties less than three years into the job.

Yet when one looks at their modest salaries, it does not justify the abrupt accumulation of both movable and immovable assets.

Back to the issue of the transferred police officers, the major problem is on how as a country we have dealt with alleged corrupt public officials.

Over the years, stories have been written about how corrupt officials in the public sector have been transferred from their stations to other places whenever they are caught in their illicit dealings just like the police officers who were transferred from Beitbridge.

Mr Speaker Sir, the question is why should someone who has been found to be corrupt be transferred to another place instead of being fired?

Why should the State find comfort in transferring bad apples to spoil others who may be of good character?

This has been happening in some Government departments as well, which is a sad development.

Government must be ruthless with corruption if it wants to send a strong message that it does not condone it.

Because the challenge is that the police officers who have replaced the ones in Beitbridge have also seen that they can loot and by the time they are caught, they will be transferred but will not lose their jobs.

This action is clearly not deterrent enough to make officials think twice the moment they think of being corrupt.

It is gratifying though that outside the borders, the police have also been firing some of their officers who have been found to be corrupt.

But they must do more to restore confidence in Zimbabweans that we have a credible police force instead of allowing a few bad apples to tarnish the image of the whole force.

This should be done through naming and shaming those police officers who would have been caught on the wrong side of the law instead of just axing them secretly.

Mr Speaker Sir, when the culprits are named and shamed, it will only take the reckless and daring ones to continue with this vice.

Talking about the borders, it is disheartening that despite the existence of various security departments at the border posts such as Beitbridge, pilferage continues to be the order of the day.

For instance, on a recent trip to Musina by bus, I realised Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 and other restrictions may leave the State counting the losses while officials at the border will be smiling all the way to the bank.

Based on what I witnessed, SI64 seems to be failing to restrict all the identified goods but has successfully benefited Zimra officials and other departments at the border.

When we left Roadport bus terminus, the conductor made an announcement in the bus that passengers were not allowed to bring blankets, furniture, sofas and other banned goods but then invited those who wanted to bring the same to see him.

And on our return, the whole bus trailer was full of the same goods the conductor said were banned.

Apparently while the goods were being loaded into the bus, an official inside was demanding R200 from each passenger claiming the money was meant for officials at the border on the Zimbabwean side to facilitate easy passage where they would not be meticulous in searching goods on the bus and to allow banned goods to go through.

Initially, about 50 percent of the passengers, the majority of them cross-border traders paid the R200 while others resisted forcing the bus officials to threaten reimbursing those who had paid and telling passengers that they would be stuck at the border for more than 12 hours.

They said the money was meant for Zimra officials, security officials and even the guards at the exit gate.

Faced with such threats of frustration at the border post, other passengers gave in but about 15 percent still resisted and when we got to the border only a few items were taken out with Zimra officials pretending to be searching and in 20 minutes everything was loaded back into the bus.

The majority of passengers did not declare their goods at all while others under-declared ,in the process prejudicing the State of huge sums of revenue.

In the past, passengers used to contribute R20 each for that easy passage but the introduction of SI 64 of 2016 has precipitated the tenfold rise in the figure for the benefit of individuals.

Mr Speaker Sir, assuming that all the passengers paid the money that was demanded, it means R15 000 from one bus would be going into the pockets of individuals and not the State.

On average, at least 40 buses are said to come to Zimbabwe from South Africa through the Beitbridge Border Post, meaning that all things being equal, officials at the border pocket about R600 000 per day.

That is obviously minus the cargo carriers, which means the money that these officials at the border collect for themselves could actually be more than R600 000.

It is important that Government finds alternative mechanisms in dealing with corruption at the border.

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