Africa Moyo — Deputy News Editor
The blitz on improperly imported vehicles carried by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is in line with the law and anyone who feels disadvantaged is free to seek redress.
The intervention comes as a number of motorists have complained that they were being inconvenienced by Zimra officials.
In cases where clear paperwork is not provided, the vehicles are impounded, leaving the motorists with no option except to look for alternative transport to get to their destinations.
Recently, a number of high-profile people including CEOs, religious leaders and socialites, came face-to-face with the Zimra crack teams and most of them had to call home or friends to be transported after their vehicles were impounded.
Once a vehicle has been impounded, Zimra only releases it when all outstanding excise duty has been paid.
In emailed responses, Zimra head corporate affairs Mr Francis Chimanda said there was nothing amiss with the blitz, adding that it was part of the authority's "routine compliance enforcement activities meant to ensure the regularisation of the importation of all goods including motor vehicles into Zimbabwe".
"These activities are ongoing across the country at different times as planned by the Authority's regional management and are not isolated to Harare and the area noted," said Mr Chimanda.
"These activities are normal operational compliance enforcement activities and carry the force of the law.
"The regularisation of the importation of any goods into Zimbabwe, including motor vehicles, is a statutory obligation for all importers and further to that, any person who deals with imported goods has the duty to ensure that such goods were properly cleared and that all duties due were paid on them.
"Where anyone is aggrieved by the decision taken by any officer of the authority, an appeal process is in place enabling any aggrieved person to appeal to management and to the Commissioner for a review of any decision.
"Should the aggrieved party still not be satisfied with the Commissioner's decision, then they may approach the courts, which will hear both sides of the issues before passing a decision on the matter."
Most motorists who had cars impounded said they bought them from car sales, with a few who imported own vehicles saying they had paid all the duty demanded at ports of entry.
Other motorists said when Zimra impounds a vehicle, they demand duty that would be in line with the present state of the car, even when some would have bought them without windscreens and in some cases dents.
Mr Chimanda said the not all vehicles impounded were purchased from local car sales, as some were imported and either kept by the importers or sold direct to third parties.
"However, it should be noted that the current compliance checks are targeting not only those vehicles already on the roads, but also imported vehicles held as stock by motor dealerships.
"These activities are also routine post-clearance checks provided for at law and administratively to verify the proper clearance of all imported goods. The Authority issued Public Notices Numbers 105 and 122 of 2021 offering amnesty on penalties on improperly imported goods including motor vehicles for importers or holders of such goods who come forth voluntarily.
"It is unfortunate that some affected members of the public have not heeded this call as noted by the number of vehicles encountered so far, compelling the Authority to proceed and carry out the verifications," he said.
Mr Chimanda said Zimra has a zero tolerance stance against corruption, whether internal or external, and disciplinary action is taken against officers where cases of corruption, bribery and/or collusion are proven.
"Besides disciplinary action taken by the Authority against errant officers, cases may also be referred to the courts for prosecution, with provision for the seizure and forfeiture the goods and any other properties that such officers cannot properly account for, where such are then deemed to be the proceeds of corrupt activities.
"The law also provides for seizure and forfeiture of any goods not properly imported, including prosecution of any member of the public found to have contravened the provisions of the same law," he said.