Windhoek — Botswana has tightened the screws on the importation of second-hand vehicle older than five years, effectively removing the loophole exploited by Namibian motorists to import such vehicles.
Botswana's customs, the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), is now enforcing the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) agreement that prohibits the registration of imported second-hand vehicles older than five years. Previously Namibian traders in imported second-hand cars would register vehicles in Botswana, from where they would enter Namibia as Botswana registered vehicles instead of imported vehicles.
The process had made it easy to register such cars in Namibia and in other SACU member states, which prohibit the registration of imported vehicles older than five years.
"BURS, in the spirit of good neighbourliness and adherence to the provision of the SACU agreement, wishes to assist Namibia in curtailing the irregularities prevalent in the movement of second-hand vehicles through the two countries," reads a statement from the Namibian Ministry of Finance's customs that relayed the decision by the Botswana customs auhorities.
However, ingenious Namibian traders in second-hand vehicles told New Era yesterday that the decision by Botswana customs is simply a temporary deterrent as they are now considering using Swaziland's leniency on the matter to circumvent the very same SACU provisions. Besides the SACU provisions, Angola - a non-SACU member - has also banned the importation of second-hand vehicles older than five years. Second-hand vehicle imports contributed at least N$150 million to the economy during 2012, with a record 20 000 vehicles recorded.
Some of the vehicles have also gone through to neighbouring countries. South Africa does not allow imported second-hand vehicles older than five years to drive on its road network. Importers of such cars are forced to load vehicles on trucks or use the port of Walvis Bay. To register the cars in Namibia, the traders would take the vehicles to Botswana where they would be registered for a short period of time and bring them back to Namibia as Botswana registered vehicles.
The process enables the cars to be registered on the Namibian vehicle registration system, which ordinarily would not allow the cars to be registered for local use within SACU states. Botswana customs says persons attempting to circumvent the SACU provisions would be subject to a fine of P40 000 (N$44 579.85) or three times the value of the vehicles or imprisonment of not more than ten years.