Corruption and illicit deals at the Beitbridge border post should be dealt with as a matter of urgency, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance said this week.
The committee, which visited Beitbridge border post to meet Zimra officials and investigate delays at the border with South Africa due to serious congestion said Zimra and the public should work together to combat corruption.
Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda, who is the committee chairman, told the public at a public hearing in Beitbridge Zimbabweans should be aware of and demand their rights if corruption at border posts was to be completely stamped out.
“Corruption is one of the diseases in this country and MPs countrywide are concerned about that,” Zhanda said.
“We want citizens to know and demand their rights because a country whose citizens do not know their rights has a problem.”
Zhanda said this after shocking revelations during the public hearing in Beitbrigde that Zimra officials were using delaying tactics to frustrate people so that they ended up paying bribes to officers manning the border to gain passage for their goods.
“Security is not tight at the border. It is easy to leave and come into the country after paying a bribe of $50, yet the police and the army are deployed there. How safe are we because there might be a lot of human trafficking also taking place there?” asked Enock Kwinika.
A traveller, Hilda Muzuva Makamure, also told the committee what travellers had to endure on the Zimbabwean side of the border was unbearable and in some instances inhuman.
“Zimra has done nothing to address the large volumes of people travelling to and from South Africa,”she said.
The South African side has pitched tents and has water and refreshment facilities and yet on the Zimbabwean side people are crowded in rooms that do not have any air conditioning,” Makamure said.
She said people trying to cross to Zimbabwe after doing their business had no choice but to pay bribes to avoid spending days at the border.
Joseph Musariri, the CEO of the Shipping and Forwarding Agency of Zimbabwe, said congestion was the biggest challenge at Beitbridge because there was no separation between commercial transactions and ordinary travellers.
“The solution is to split commercial traffic from ordinary travellers. Dangerous cargo should pass quickly and there is need for an express route for passengers. Zimra is not effectively using the green zones and the red zones because people are subjected to a lot of searches,” said Musariri.
He said connectivity at Beitbridge, where everything was computerised, resulted in more confusion instead of helping the situation.
“Now we have a complete breakdown in the clearing process as the system is always down and it is further delaying people at the border,” he said.
Simeon Mudau, the chairman of the Shipping and Forwarding Agency, told the committee that there were more than 400 bogus clearing agents on the Zimbabwean side of the border, resulting in transporters having to wait many days to clear their goods.
However, Moses Madongorere, the Zimra regional manager for Beitbridge said the congestion at the border was due to shortage of staff, inadequate infrastructure, connectivity problems, touts and an influx of clearing agents, most of whom were bogus.
Madongorere also admitted that Zimra staff could be engaged in corrupt activities at the border post but said his organisation practiced zero tolerance to corruption.