Ray Bande Senior Reporter
A web of corrupt officials involving Zimra, Immigration and security personnel at Forbes Border Post in Mutare is under investigation after a bus carrying more than 400 packs smuggled Coca Cola drinks was impounded near Mutare city centre on Wednesday night when it had smoothly crossed into the country from Mozambique.
The Harare-bound Trip Trans bus was traveling from Beira, Mozambique when it was intercepted by police in Mutare on Wednesday night.
Manicaland police deputy spokesperson Assistant Inspector Luxson Chananda confirmed that investigations into the matter were in progress.
“We have not yet gathered all information relating to this matter but what I can tell you is that police received information from an informer that the bus was carrying goods that were not allowed to be imported into the country under Section 47 of the Custom and Excise Act had gained smooth passage into the country.
“The bus was stopped on its way into the central business district and the goods were found in the bus. It is clear that the goods were illegally allowed into the country hence investigations into the matter are in progress,” said Ass Insp Chananda.
Stranded passengers, most of whom are cross border traders, spent the night in the bus under police custody.
Trip Trans Mutare garage manager Mr Tendai Mponda said he thinks that their bus was impounded because of some Zimra officials who wanted to expose their workmates whom they felt had benefited in some shady deals with owners of the soft drinks.
“Surely, how can we have a bus crossing the border with all its luggage and passengers only to be arrested in town? The bus did not use an undesignated entry point into the country. It passed through the border where there are numerous Zimra, Immigration and security officials.
“This is a clear indication that there is a lot of corruption going on there. It must be a syndicate of corrupt officials that is allowing smooth passage of smuggled goods.
“As a bus company, we feel hard done by the treatment that we got given that our core business is transporting people and goods only. We feel that it is a case of corrupt officials who did not share the loot equally and those who were bitter decided to spill the beans,” said Mr Mponda.
Passengers who spoke to The Manica Post on condition of anonymity said they were made to pay different amounts of money by Zimra and security officials but somehow could not be released.
“We are very bitter with the way Zimra and security officials have been treating us here. We have been made to pay different amounts of money and each time they took money they came back saying it is not enough. The sad thing is that some of the passengers here have nothing to do with the soft drinks but have also been barred from leaving since they are saying investigations are still in progress,” said one passenger in an interview near Green Market where the bus was parked yesterday (Thursday) morning.
Zimra Mutare regional manager Mr Innocent Chikuni referred all questions to their corporate affairs department in Harare.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from their corporate affairs department were fruitless at the time of going to print.