ZIMBABWEANS importing mostly second-hand cars from Japan and other countries are being systematically ripped off of their hard-earned money through payment of duty that requires kickbacks at the country’s Chirundu and Beitbridge border posts.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) stopped accepting cash payments of duty for imported vehicles through their cashiers in November 2013.
A Zimra notice posted at Beitbridge Border Post says: “Zimra cashiers will cease to accept cash as payment of duty on all imported vehicles on November 26 2013. Payments can only be made through the Zimra CBZ account.”
However, since the cash method was stopped, a well co-ordinated scheme involving senior Zimra officials has been put in place where there are deliberate delays in processing duty payments until the bank closes for the day.
Only a few cars are processed while the bank is open, while most clearances are done after the bank closes.
Zimra sources at the two border posts said Zimra officials are working in cahoots with a group of people referred to as “agents” at the border post who use their bank ATM cards to pay duty on behalf of car owners.
These “agents”, whose bank accounts balances run into many thousands of dollars, charge a fee of US$50 per every US$1 000 paid for duty using their ATM cards.
A source explained: “A client arrives in the morning at the border and the officials deliberately delay him or her until the bank closes. They then suggest that the car owner uses another person’s bank card to pay the duty on Zimra’s point of sale machine.
“The Zimra official is the one who then calls the agent who would charge US$50 for every US$1 000. For example, if one is supposed to pay a duty of US$2 500, the agent charges an extra US$125 for using the bank card.”
Thomas Dube from Harare, who had to fork out an extra US$150, said the delay by the Zimra officials to clear vehicles during normal working hours suggests they are conniving to fleece motorists.
“I arrived at the Chirundu border post on Thursday around 10am and the officials deliberately delayed to process my papers until the bank was closed at 3pm,” he said.
“The officials then said the bank had been closed so whoever wanted their papers processed could ask some people with money in their accounts to swipe for them. Little did we know this was a scam involving the Zimra officials.”
A vendor at the border, who asked not to be named, said the scheme was well co-ordinated with Zimra officials depositing money into the agents’ accounts.
“These guys spring into action after 3pm and the delay in processing papers by officials is deliberate,”said the vendor.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent also revealed that the officials only serve about 10 clients during normal working hours while the majority are assisted after 3pm.
Efforts to get comment from Zimra spokesperson Taungana Ndoro were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.