THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has declined to disclose the value of goods lost in three fire incidents in which its warehouses at Beitbridge Border Post were razed to the ground, saying the information was not for public consumption.
By Rex Mphisa
On Tuesday last week, goods believed to be worth thousands of dollars belonging to travellers who had failed to pay duty were destroyed when a warehouse at the border post was gutted by fire, a third such incident following outbreaks in 2014 and 2016.
A Zimra official said investigations to establish the cause of fire were on-going.
Responding to questions from the Southern Eye, Zimra acting spokesperson, Inzwirai Muonwa, said she was not at liberty to discuss the value of destroyed goods.
“The investigation report of the State warehouse fire that occurred in 2014 was not a public document and cannot be shared with the media,” Muonwa said last week.
“The value of the goods destroyed in the 2014 warehouse fire related to specific taxpayers’ information that cannot be disclosed.”
She said she was not in a position to disclose the value of the goods burnt in the fire that devoured an out-sourced State warehouse at the Red Star building, torched during riots against Statutory Instrument 64/2016 that banned imports of goods deemed locally available.
“The value of the goods lost in the Red Star warehouse fire relates to specific taxpayer information that cannot be disclosed,” Muonwa said.
She also refused to disclose the general description of the goods in the warehouse which got burnt last week.
Muonwa said the Customs and Excise Department had not auctioned the goods understood to have been held for over a year-and-a-half although Customs and Excise regulations stipulate that goods not claimed within three months should be auctioned.
“The bulk of the goods being held required production of import licenses and permits when purchased at auction and prospective buyers would not be able to produce the required licenses or permits,” she added.
The department never advertised the goods.
Last Tuesday’s fire outbreak came within a fortnight after the border had a section of its roof swept off by strong winds that also ripped open a police closed circuit television (CCTV) control room, rendering the facility unusable.
“Zimra is in the process of engaging a service provider to undertake the repairs as a long-term solution. Under the Beitbridge-government re-development project, there are plans to construct a new Beitbridge warehouse which will include automatic fire detection and fire suppression equipment,” the Zimra official said.
The CCTV section could have detected any abnormalities at the warehouse during the outbreak of the fire.
Security sources have not ruled out arson.