is Zimbabwe getting it wrong?
17 May 2021
The mining sector has emerged as a
key economic sector that plays a critical role in the development of the
country. It brings in foreign currency which is vital in financing key public
expenditures such as infrastructure development. Since 2009, the sector has become the fastest
growing and in 2015 it exhibited stronger growth of above 3.5% largely driven
by significant increases in the production of gold, platinum, coal and chrome.
In 2021, the mining sector is projected to register growth of 11% and it will
be one of the key sectors to drive the estimated economic growth of 7.4% (GoZ,
The above statistics indicate that
there is great potential for the mining sector to drive economic growth and
development in Zimbabwe. However, the contribution of mining sector to central
government revenues and socio-economic welfare of the citizens remains
contested (Mlambo, 2016; ZEPARU, 2018). As a result, Zimbabwe is argued to be
suffering the proverbial “mineral resource curse”. Some reasons have been put
forward, including corruption, non-transparency, weak legal and institutional
frameworks, porous and weak points on entry (border) controls that facilitate
rampant smuggling, illicit financial flows, transfer pricing and trade
Zimbabwe borders Mozambique from the
East, Botswana from the West, Zambia from the North and South Africa from the
South. Zimbabwe has
- 15 land borders
- Three international airports
- More than 30 undesignated crossing points along its borderlines.
- Illegal routes of entry and exit still exist along Zimbabwe’s borderlines.
- Unmanned private airstrips and other airports not always manned by
customs and immigration (Beitbridge Airport, Buffalo Range Airport, Charles
Prince Airport, Kariba Airport, and Mutare Airport) also exist.
Although laws, policies, institutions,
and border controls and practices are in place, a plethora of weaknesses
inherent in the legal instruments, institutions and border controls undermine
the regulation of the mining sector in Zimbabwe thereby encouraging smuggling
of minerals, mining revenue leakages and illicit financial flows. They do not
promote good governance, transparency, and accountability in the mining sector.
Strengths in Border Control Systems and Practices
According to the study, strengths
were identified in the current border control systems and practices in curbing
smuggling and leakages in minerals. These include the following:
system (ASYCUDA World)
The processing of all exports and
imports in the ASYCUDA World system is helping to reduce human interactions thereby
reducing collusion of clearing agents and individual importers.
and Baggage scanners
ZIMRA purchased scanners in 2009 to
ease clearances and curb smuggling. Although there is a significant shortage of
scanners at most border posts, as also noted by Parliament of Zimbabwe (2018),
the available scanners have been able to assist in detecting contraband and or
undeclared goods thereby deterring smuggling.
Circuit Television (CCTVs) and Cameras
The installation of CCTVs and cameras
at two of the busiest border posts (Beitbridge and Forbes Border Posts) has
helped in curbing illegal and illicit activities at the borders including
smuggling activities. There is need to install these CCTVs and cameras at all
border posts to help in detecting smuggling goods (including minerals) in and
out of the country.
checking of documents at point of exit or entry
Weaknesses in the Border Control Systems and Practices
Several weaknesses were identified in
the border control systems and practices that may be facilitating the smuggling
and leakages of minerals. These include:
and Malfunctioning scanners
There is significant shortage of
scanners (cargo and baggage) at border posts. The few ones that are there at
some border posts in most cases will be malfunctioning, and in some cases,
Customs Officers use their discretion on what cargo or baggage to scan. Due to
the shortage and malfunctioning of scanners, Customs Officers resort to
physical searches of baggage which is laborious and ineffective (Munyanyi,
2019). The shortage of scanners to detect the exact quantities and nature of
the goods presents an opportunity to smugglers to conceal high value goods such
as diamonds and gold.
Illegal routes of entry still exist, thus
creating opportunities for smugglers to freely move their goods. This concurs
with the observation by the Parliament of Zimbabwe (2018) that revealed that
smuggling was rampant at Forbes Border Post. At this border post, smugglers in
day light follow animal tracks in the landmine fields making it difficult for
customs and border authorities to enforce compliance. This is also a threat to
security at the border. The same situation is what is witnessed at Nyamapanda
Border Post, which is also surrounded with active landmine fields. In September
2020, the Minister of Home Affairs alluded that the country is losing an estimated
US$100 million worth of gold every month due to rampant smuggling through the
country’s porous points of entry (MiningZimbabwe.com, 2020).
surveillance and uncontrolled access to the customs areas
Travellers can enter and leave the
border without proper clearances (searches and declarations). For instance,
small-scale traders the majority who stay within the borderland can pass
through the border several times without adhering to customs and immigration
procedures. In other instances, some can use the entry gate of the border to
exit in the presence of customs, immigration and police who are manning the
gate. This usually happens at the
busiest and congested border posts such as Beitbridge and Forbes Border Posts
making the surveillance process extremely difficult in the absence of state-of-the-art
technology. Without or with poor surveillance smuggling flourishes.
border territory security
The border territory has limited
cameras and there are no drones to provide the full view and extent of illegal activities.
Most borders do not have adequate security at the border itself and along the
borderlines. Perimeter fences are not in place. Where they exist, they are
dilapidated and compromising border territory security. Physical barriers at
the border such as boom gates are non-existent or malfunctioning making the
control of traffic difficult. To this regard, Parliament of Zimbabwe (2018)
revealed smugglers as the culprits for vandalising barriers at the border posts
to clear way for their easy passage when carrying contraband.
size of some consignments
The package size of some consignments
makes it difficult for border officials to detect the contraband. For instance,
gold and diamond are “low weight, high value” minerals that can be put in the
pocket or handbag making it difficult for officials to tell if someone is
carrying such minerals especially in the absence of scanners. The case of the
arrest of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) President at the Robert Mugabe
International Airport while trying to board plane with 6kgs of gold in a
handbag, (2020), clearly brings out this challenge.
among border officials and smugglers
Different border officials may
collude among themselves and with smugglers to facilitate the smuggling of
goods including minerals. At most, border posts, officials are paid regular
“pay-outs” and bribes to facilitate smuggling and shield the smugglers from
of today’s smugglers
Modern day smugglers are
sophisticated and are far ahead the controls of border officials. They employ a
wide range of smuggling techniques that include the backyard modification of
the means of conveyance to hide contraband and the forging of export or import
documents, which the mere physical document check by border officials may fail
of the Minerals and Border Control Unit (MBCU)
The Zimbabwe Republic Police’s
Minerals and Border Control Unit [MBCU] was established to curtail leakages of
minerals and other natural resources as well as enforce laws that protect
public infrastructure and utilities in the country. It used to mann all ports
of entry and exit. Unfortunately, the MBCU was disbanded in 2018 as the
government descended on a criminal syndicate involving magistrates, prosecutors,
police officers and immigration officers who systematically conducted corrupt
activities including smuggling the country’s resources (Chronicle, 2018). The
disbanding of the MBCU was a welcome move but has also exacerbated smuggling
especially of gold and diamond.
- Gaps in Airports Security
greatest challenge in airports relate to cargo and the screening of passengers.
Air cargo is complicated, and screening it gives rise to complicated issues of
logistics, costs and space. The other challenge is screening passengers and
their carry-on luggage for minerals and other contraband. Usually “low weight,
high value” minerals are hard to detect with the existing mechanisms. Making
the situation worse is that smugglers smuggle with the assistance of security
forces and border officials at both airports land borders. The case of the
Zimbabwean traveller caught with 23 pieces of gold at OR Tambo International
Airport in South Africa speaks to this (Newsdzezimbabwe.co.uk, 2020).
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
Website : www.zela.org
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