By Staff Reporter
THE South African Revenue Authority (SARS) has seized cigarettes worth at least US$1. 8 million which was smuggled into the neighbouring country by Zimbabweans since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March.
They have also intercepted smuggled alcohol worth US$7. 400 during the same period.
South Africa banned tobacco trade as part of its measures to contain the spread of the virus on March 27, but this latently opened floodgates for smugglers who feed a thriving black market.
The country had also imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol although the restriction has since been lifted.
SARS head of media and communications Siphithi Sibili confirmed the authority was in the middle of a major fight against bootleg smugglers.
“They smuggle mainly cigarette and alcohol (and) detentions have been made as follows: cigarettes – 209 detentions to the value of R26 099 589.54 (US$1 536 330.62); alcohol – 30 detentions worth R124 358.90 (US$7. 320.36),” Sibili said in response to questions sent by NewZimbabwe.com via email Thursday.
“We have since seen an increase in the quantities being detained. As part of an integrated government approach, SARS has been embarking on joint operations such as border patrols and roadblocks to detect and enforce along the borderline, amongst other areas.
“At Beitbridge border, it is predominantly cigarettes and alcohol. Nationally, we have seen seizures of a variety of commodities that ranges from non-declared commercial goods to counterfeit goods.”
He said due to rampant smuggling, SARS had established cooperative relations with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) in its efforts to turn the tide.
“SARS and ZIMRA have formal operational and strategic engagement structures established at port of entry and at national level. Furthermore, both revenue authorities established a working group focusing on border efficiency and joint enforcement activities to deal with high risk commodities including cigarettes,” he said.
These developments come at a time South African police Tuesday confirmed they had intercepted smuggled cigarettes worth R2 million and arrested four Zimbabweans last Sunday.
According to SARS, South Africa loses over US$470 million per year in unpaid taxes due to cigarette smuggling.