Zimbabwean law enforcement authorities are facing a torrid time reigning in a booming industry of fuel smuggling syndicates operating on the country’s border towns.
Galloping inflation coupled with the three-tier pricing system has created arbitrage opportunities for traders to buy fuel using either bond notes or mobile transfer and sell in US currency in neighboring countries.
According to globalpetrolprices.com as of June 17 2019, the real cost of diesel in Zimbabwe was US$ 0.52 per litre compared to the average price of diesel in the world pegged at US $1.02.
Unsophisticated syndicates have since taken to smuggling using undesignated points.
“Police on patrol along the Zimbabwe-Botswana boundary recently recovered 10 x 35 (350) litres of diesel in plastic containers near the Ramakwebane bridge. The fuel was abandoned by the people who were using an illegal crossing point when they came across the police patrol,” police said.
“Fuel is highly flammable and can be hazardous if not handled with care. We urge members of the public to use designated crossing points when leaving or entering the country and to stop engaging in criminal acts which include the smuggling of fuel.”
On a larger scale, fuel transit fraud has been a major cause of concern along the country’s porous borders.
Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Commissioner-General Faith Mazani believes the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) which tracks fuel tankers to indicated destinations has gone a long way in clamping down on smuggling syndicates which were having a field day through the Kazungula Border Post before the introduction of the electronic system.
“The importation of fuel which so much increased through Kazungula abruptly stopped when electronic sealing was extended to that border, pointing to a smuggling syndicate that started using that port of entry.”
It is also alleged that in some cases syndicates make false declarations.
Mazani said the ECTS had yielded positive results “notably the four trucks intercepted at Chirundu Border Post after it was discovered that they had tempered with the seals and replaced the fuel they were carrying with water.”
“We have also had other achievements which saw fuel withdrawal from NOIC Msasa purported to be for export reduced greatly after the introduction of ECTS,” she said.
In 2016 a total 2, 320 trucks withdrew fuel for export from NOIC, the figure reduced to 942 in 2017 and a further 162 in 2018, Mazani added.