Cletus Mushanawani in CHIMOIO, Mozambique
Second-hand clothing dealers are flocking to Mozambique’s Gabo area of Chimoio daily to buy large numbers of bales before engaging couriers to transport the contraband to various parts of Zimbabwe, The Manica Post can reveal.
Gabo has emerged as the major source of bales of second-hand clothing being smuggled into Zimbabwe as their trading is permissible under Mozambican law.
It is brisk business as Mozambican shops are always stocked to the brim, with dealers spoilt for choice.
Trucks and kombis criss-cross as they load the bales throughout the day in preparation to cross into Zimbabwe under the cover of darkness.
However, the business community in Mozambique has expressed concern over the trading activities taking place on their doorsteps, highlighting that due to this, their country was now being viewed as a haven of illegal activities.
Zimbabwe is also losing millions of dollars through fuel smuggled from Mozambique.
The issue emerged during a ZimTrade Outward Trade Mission to Manica where Mozambican and Zimbabwean business people interacted.
Responding to queries raised by the Mozambican business community, Director of Customs in Manica Province, Mr Olices Tembe said while the issue of smuggling is always being raised on various platforms, Mozambique’s hands are tied.
“We cannot stop the trucks from leaving this country because there are no laws stopping Mozambican people from trading bales. Once they cross into Zimbabwe, we cannot speak on behalf of our Zimbabwean counterparts as it is a sovereign State,” said Mr Tembe.
Zimbabwe’s Consular General to Beira, Mr Stephen Kudarawanda, referred all questions to the country’s Ambassador to Mozambique, Ambassador Victor Matemadanda.
Unfortunately, Ambassador Matemadanda was reportedly on leave and could not be reached for comment before going to print.
When The Manica Post visited Gabo early this week, it was established that the big sharks in the trade have connections in Mozambique.
Big dealers communicate with their connections in Mozambique from the comfort of their homes to facilitate the buying and delivery of bales into Zimbabwe.
On that particular day, some of the bales that were headed to Zimbabwe were labeled Madzimai, Mai Mukono, Boss Widzo, Tagaz, TK, Nketa 7, Esigodini, Chiredzi and Masvingo 7.
Those interviewed said some dealers prefer using codes to avoid being picked up by law enforcement agents in Zimbabwe in the event that the couriers are nabbed.
Investigations revealed that a bale can be bought from as little as US$30 up to as much as US$300, depending on the size and quality of the stuff.
Transporting the bales is charged according to the weight, with those with small packages parting with US$5.
Bales weighing 45kgs and above are transported into Zimbabwe for anything between US$20 and US$25.
One of the agents that The Manica Post managed to have a chat with, Mr Paulo Erinesto, said he can facilitate the purchasing and smooth transportation of the bales to any location in Zimbabwe.
“This is our line of business and you will never go wrong if you engage our services. We have customers who phone us from Zimbabwe and place their orders and send in money to buy their stuff. We ensure that we engage reliable transporters who know how to evade law enforcement agents and deliver the bales to our customers’ doorsteps.
“The prices of the bales vary depending on the quality of the stuff. The best bales go for as much as US$300 and you are assured of a return on your investment,” said Mr Erinesto.
Another dealer, Mr Victor Maposa from Mutare, said he crosses into Mozambique on a daily basis to transport numerous bales into Zimbabwe, depending on placed orders.
“We know which routes to take to evade arrests. We are constantly in touch with our customers giving them updates on our movements. We operate as syndicates and for big consignments, escort vehicles are deployed to accompany the delivery trucks to their destinations.
“So many routes have been opened along the border and whenever we discover that our routes are now known by law enforcement agents, we open new ones. I am at your disposal if you need these services,” he said.
Smuggling of second-hand clothing has crippled Zimbabwe’s textile industry and law enforcement agents are having a torrid time to deal with the vice.
To curb smuggling, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is seized with the procurement of long range drones that will cover a distance of 200km to monitor the country’s porous borders.
Speaking in Mutare recently, Acting Zimra Commissioner for Customs and Excise, Mr Adrian Swarres said the Authority is procuring drones that can fly even at night.
“The long range drones will have a capacity to travel one direction up to 200km and come back and land safely,” he said.
Confederation of Economic Associations’ Manica Province’s president, Mr Alcides Cintura also called for consented efforts to curb smuggling.
“We want smuggling to be dealt with so that our businesses can grow. Trade should be done through designated ports of entry,” he said.