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Car importers bring Chirundu to life

TUNDUMA border post which separates Tanzania and Zambia is a hive of activity with many Zimbabweans passing through to collect vehicles they will have imported from Japan.

BY NUNURAI JENA in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Most Zimbabweans used to import vehicles through Beitbridge border post. But many now prefer to use Chirundu border for various reasons.
Harare car dealer Jonathan Banda said duty charged by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials stationed at Chirundu was fairly reasonable as it is determined by proof of money transferred to vehicle suppliers through the bank.

Corruption at traditional entry points, Beitbridge and Plumtree has seen the volume of traffic coming through Tanzania increasing.
Banda alleged that at Beitbridge, Zimra officials do not calculate duty basing on the purchase price but on their assumed cost price.

“At Beitbridge they do not stick to the invoice price but re-evaluate and give the car a purchase price of their own,” said Banda.

Tineyi Gavi said it was advantageous to use Chirundu as Zimbabwean travellers benefit from the US$300 monthly duty rebate given when one stays in a foreign country for one or more nights.

People who import via Beitbridge do not benefit because vehicles are collected on the Zimbabwean side as they are not allowed to be driven to the border.

Even informal traders who buy clothes and other wares for resell back home now prefer Tanzania to South Africa because of better quality goods.

They said the high crime rates in South Africa were also making the neighbouring country a risky destination.  Getrude Shava said there was a high risk of losing money to thieves in South Africa than Tanzania.

Petronela Nyajena has been a cross border for the last 15 years. She said it was a huge but profitable sacrifice to go to Tanzania.

However, although it is cheaper to import one’s vehicles via Tanzania, there is a risk of driving long distances in mountainous and wildlife infested forests.

Some unfortunate Zimbabweans have failed to make it back home with their new vehicles. The 2 500km route from Tanzania is littered with car wreckages.

Getting to Chirundu, the only blemish are some Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officers who demand  a bribe of US$20 to do their job of verifying engine and chassis numbers.

For others, the advantage of using the Chirundu border is that travellers can clear vehicles on their own unlike Beitbridge where the system forces one to use agents, some of whom are linked to corrupt Zimra officials.

Vehicles with engine capacity above one and half litres are liable to 85% duty while those below attract a 65% duty. According to Zimra’s tax schedule, the cost price includes freight expenses and the cost of fuel consumed to bring the vehicle at the point of payment (border).

A Mashonaland West Zimra official who refused to be identified said about 500 vehicles pass though the Chirundu Border Post per week compared to below 50 two years ago.

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