Zim underwear, cigarette smugglers hit Botswana


FRANCISTOWN — Botswana Unified Revenue Services (Burs) and police say there is an upsurge in smuggling of cigarettes and second-hand underwear through the Plumtree border.

Burs and police officials told a workshop on smuggling last week that smugglers scheme with locals to transport goods into Botswana.

They said Batswana who aid smugglers are transporters, mostly taxi drivers and truckers with permits to transport goods in return for payment.

Officials said the situation was getting worse with the number of smugglers showing a steady increase in recent years.

Smuggled goods are mainly cigarettes manufactured in Zimbabwe.

Burs officials, however, said that second-hand underwear and body creams are now finding their way into the country illegally in large volumes from Ramokgwebana (Plumtree) border post.

“I do not have the figures to ascertain that, but the amount at which second-hand bikinis and creams have recently been entering the country illegally is a concern to us,” Burs customs manager in Francistown, Catherine Lephojane, said at the workshop.

The police said in most smuggling cases, they had recorded Batswana taxi drivers, truckers and some members of the public who have been used as transporters of illegal items for a fee.

Detective assistant commissioner Oabitsa Rankwaila told the workshop that Batswana should desist from aiding smugglers with transport.

Last year alone, Francistown police recorded 39 cases of smuggling, an increase by eight compared to 2012.

From April to date, Burs recorded 207 cases of smuggling.

Although Lephojane did not have statistics from recent years, she maintained that the number of cases recorded is high considering losses in financial terms.

“We lose a lot of money in duty tax from goods that enter the country illegally,” she stated.

She said there were habitual smugglers who make the Burs and police work difficult.

“It does not matter what kind of fine or punishment is given to them. They continue to smuggle goods, especially cigarettes, into the country in large numbers which makes our job difficult,” Lephojane said.

Bus and Taxi Drivers’ Association chairperson Tymon Matebesi promised that they would work hand in hand with the police and the government to smoke out drivers who assist smugglers.

Smuggling has been a problem to Francistown police for years.

In June 2012, Tshesebe police shot one Zenzo Sibanda near the Ramokgwebana border as he attempted to smuggle cigarettes into Botswana.

He was believed to be with two other men who disappeared during the shooting.

The 39-year-old Sibanda was from Siviya, a village near the Ramokgwebana border. Media reports then said he was well known in the area for his smuggling activities.

His death sparked a lot of controversy as many claimed he was in cahoots with some corrupt police officers to traffic cigarettes into the country.

The officers who shot and killed Sibanda were said have been acting on a tip-off from a villager who saw him loading boxes of cigarettes in the bush.

— Mmegi