THE Government will soon deploy soldiers to Beitbridge Border Post to help eradicate criminal activities during the festive season cross-border movement. During peak periods such as the festive period, criminals usually take advantage of congestion at the country’s busiest inland port of entry to con unsuspecting travellers of their money. They target mainly tourists and foreigners not familiar with customs and immigration formalities.
Presenting his 2018 National Budget Statement yesterday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in light of chaos resulting from congestion at Beitbridge Border Post, the Government has resolved to extend Operation Restore Legacy by deploying members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to the port of entry. “In order to eliminate inefficiencies due to congestion arising from activities of unauthorised persons operating at Beitbridge Border Post, and also drawing from the new dispensation, as enunciated by His Excellency, the President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Government proposes an extension of Operation Restore Legacy by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, to Beitbridge Border Post, in order to restore order,” said Minister Chinamasa.
He said the criminals operating at the border were tarnishing the image of the country, which impacted negatively on tourist arrivals. He said soldiers will coordinate with other security agencies to deal with crime at Beitbridge Border Post.
“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces command structures will, therefore, with immediate effect, coordinate with other security agencies for removal of touts, vendors and beggars from the customs controlled area. Furthermore, in order to ensure that only authorised persons enter the customs controlled area, thereby eradicating loitering, it is proposed to demarcate the pathway for pedestrians entering and exiting the customs controlled area, in line with best practice in the region,” he said.
Although only licensed clearing agents should operate within the customs yard, there has been a proliferation of touts who solicit for business from travellers, smugglers and illegal immigrants. “The situation is worsened by vendors and beggars who also undertake their business within the customs controlled area,” said Minister Chinamasa.
He said the Government was aware of the need to modernise Beitbridge Border Post so that it meets international standards. “The Government acknowledges the need to ease entry and exit of tourists and travellers, improve trade facilitation and revenue collection efficiency at Beitbridge. In the longer term, this will also require large investment in new infrastructure facilities at the port of entry,” he said.
Minister Chinamasa said the Government has been working with the African Development Bank to improve exit and entry efficiencies using the existing facilities. “In this regard, the border post expert subsequently engaged, with the assistance of funding from the African Development Bank, has since concluded the final report to this effect,” he said.
The Minister said the Government is currently implementing short term measures to decongest Beitbridge Border Post and quicken the movement of travellers and cargo. He said congestion has also contributed to delays in the clearance of bona-fide travellers, who experience inconveniences when completing immigration and customs formalities.
“In order to decongest the Beitbridge Border Post, the Government has installed a Closed Circuit Television system which monitors adherence to border procedures by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and other agencies. There is connection of mobile scanners to ASYCUDA World Server in order to enable real time entry and timely acquittal of goods and the relocation of passenger buses carrying commercial cargo to a transit shed for purposes of clearance,” he said.
The Government is also working on the implementation of the e-customs initiative for the advance clearance and online payment of relevant charges for tourist motor vehicles and the installation of an electronic system that sequences and notifies the next person to be served.
To enhance efficiency at the country’s ports of entry, the Government is in the process of establishing a National Ports Authority, whose mandate is to maintain infrastructure and manage the administrative affairs of border posts, among others.