Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » Looting Reigns at Zimra Auctions

Corruption and vice have become almost synonymous with Beitbridge Border Post, the country’s busiest port of entry and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s cash cow.

Top among bad things often said of the border post are stories of prostitution, cross-border crime and illegal immigrants finding their way across the Limpopo River risking life and limb.

Public auctions conducted by Zimra are the latest issue to come to the limelight at Beitbridge Border Post amid indications of looting and racketeering by some officials and buyers.

The auctions, also known as rummage sales, are conducted publicly in terms of the Customs and Excise Act to dispose of goods not cleared within three months of being held by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

Dates and places where rummage sales are held are publicised by Zimra for members of the public to participate — ideally.

However, massive looting is reportedly going on at most state warehouses where the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority keeps goods which would have been seized from importers or exporters for flouting various customs regulations.

It is understood that a syndicate of dealers from Harare with the assistance of workers at an auction company (name supplied) is working in cahoots with corrupt Zimra officers at various warehouses to loot properties during auctions.

Goods such as vehicles, clothing, footwear, hardware, electrical and assorted groceries are kept at the state warehouses for between 90 days and six months before they are disposed of through rummage sales.

Investigations by the The Herald reveal that the Zimra officials and those from the auctioneers get rewards of 10 percent of the value on whatever products they will have sold.

The group reportedly has not missed an auction by Zimra at Beitbridge, Chirundu, Nyamapanda, Mutare, Bulawayo, Harare, Chiredzi, Victoria Falls and Plumtree ports in the last five years.

They said in some cases Zimra officers at the warehouses, especially at Beitbridge Border Post, are said to be going an extra mile to organise transport to carry the loot for the dealers.

The auction company is also alleged to be giving these dealers catalogues and price lists of products on sale a few days before the actual rummage sale thus giving them an unfair aantage over other bidders.

Further, the group has always been able to outbid other potential buyers though at the end of the rummage sale they pay the reserved prices. In return, they reward the auctioneers and the Zimra officer with various monetary incentives.

When Zimra goes to the auctions they have standard prices which they prescribe for certain products and these dealers go to the auction fully aware of this.

In some instances unscrupulous revenue officers and the auctioneers are said to be giving these people money to buy the products.

“These people don’t have large sums of money but simply connive to outbid other potential buyers. At the end of the auction they are issued with receipts indicating that they have made payments through the Real Time Gross Settlements (RTGS).

They later deposit the money into the Zimra bank account after selling their products in Harare.

“At some point they bought 480 boxes of floor tiles and 210 flash doors for only $2 600 which some Zimra guys at Beitbridge helped transport to Harare. They later shared the loot at Zindoga Business Centre in Waterfalls. These people have been looting from the state warehouse for the past five years and this must stop,” said a well placed Zimra source.

Zimra’s auction conditions of sale indicate that entry to viewing and sale days is to catalogue holders only at US$20.00 per head.

Buying cards are purchased upon payment of a cash surety deposit of US$2 000 for vehicles and US$1 000 for other goods which is refundable if all sale conditions are met.

The payment is strictly cash at the conclusion of the sale and no goods are supposed to leave the sale venue until fully paid for.

One of the frequent auction buyers who preferred not to be named for security reasons said she was making a living out of buying products from auctions.

She said the sentiments that the group was corrupt were coming from jealousy people who had no capital.

“I started this business of buying goods for resale at Zimra auctions a long time ago and I am making a living out of it just like any other Zimbabwean.

“I have enough capital and as long as I have the money I will continue buying. As we speak I have a lot of property at my house that I bought from the rummage sales which I intend to sell.

“There is nothing wrong with us putting money together as a group to buy whatever we want for resale. In actual fact we are risk takers. We are not working with anyone from Zimra or any auction company but just putting our resources together as individuals with a common interest.

“We don’t have any relationship with auctioneers,” she said.

She said the auctions were open to every Zimbabwean with capital so there was no reason for people to accuse her for looting.

She said they travel to most towns with other members of the group where they buy products for resale.

Mr Fortune Majazi of Mac Auction Service, a company that has been fingered in the illicit deals at the auction, said he knew members of the group but denied that they had any working relationship.

“I am a mere overseer at the auction and I have no links with the people you are talking about except that they are regular buyers at many auctions.

“We don’t even contact them wherever we are having rummage sales because these are made known to the public through the media.

“As auctioneers we don’t have the privilege to view what we would be selling and we get the catalogues a few hours before the start of the auction. There is no way we can leak the price list to anyone,” said Mr Majazi.

He said according to their regulations, they don’t sell anything above US$20 000 to one individual.

Zimra’s director of Legal and Corporate Services, Ms Florence Jambwa said yesterday that the matter was under investigations.

“We are still investigating the matter and as you are aware, ZIMRA is a transparent organisation that does not condone corruption.

“Any members of the public who have specific information about corrupt or underhand dealings can use any of the following channels to report and expose corruption. Call our integrity toll-free hotlines which are 08004174 or 08004185, post information on our Facebook page (www.facebook.comZIMRA.11), post information on our Twitter page (@ZIMRA_11), send e-mail to pr@zimra.co.zw, use our suggestion boxes or our Whistleblower Facility,” she said.

“Rummage sales are conducted publicly in terms of the Customs and Excise Act to dispose of goods not cleared within three months of being held by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA). Dates and places where rummage sales are held are publicised by ZIMRA for members of the public to participate,” added Ms Jambwa.

Source : The Herald