CAGE PESKY SMUGGLERS

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THE seizure of cement-laden trucks at Kasumbalesa border by police on Wednesday shows yet again the resolve and audacity by smugglers to continue evading tax.

Despite the vicious fight Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has mounted against smugglers, it is clear they are not ready to stop  engaging in the vice which has seen Government continue to lose colossal sums of money in tax revenue.

Seizure of trucks loaded with bags of cement, mealie meal, Mukula logs or indeed other commodities, either by police or ZRA, has become a norm at Zambia’s borders posts.

This is disheartening!

A month hardly passes without the nation hearing about ZRA impounding truckloads with assorted contraband that find their way into the Zambian markets through various smuggling syndicates thereby distorting the economy.

In the case of Wednesday’s seizure, the trucks were impounded after a directive by Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo.

This was after he found them at Bilanga area on Zambia’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where smuggling of mealie meal and other products is widespread.

Mr Kampyongo, who was on a tour of the area to check on the security situation, found the trucks parked and the cement they were carrying being offloaded into a makeshift warehouse in readiness for smuggling into Congo DR.

It is not clear how many trucks were involved but regardless of the number, the bottomline is that smuggling in whatever form, deprives the government of the much-needed revenue for improving the health and education sectors, among others.

Admittedly, ZRA has scored successes in curbing vice through the battle it has waged against smugglers and other crooks but sadly, these hoodlums are relentless in their shenanigans.

We salute ZRA and other enforcement wings for their efforts so far in curbing the vice but it is obvious that the smugglers too have devised sophisticated ways of evading tax.

Smuggling is not unique to Zambia, it is a global phenomenon and as such criminals involved in these activities are always looking for new ways of moving cargo dubiously into the country without being detected.

 They work through cartels and syndicates by conniving with corrupt officials in the security wings and even ZRA itself.

This is why ZRA and other security wings must continue flashing out the bad eggs found conniving with smugglers.

We also urge ZRA to seriously consider investing heavily in drone technology as these devices can spot smuggling activities taking place in various places depending on which area they are programmed to cover.  A week ago, ZRA successfully impounded seven trucks in Kapiri Mposhi through drones that located the vehicles hidden in the bush by suspected smugglers in the area.

Equipped with information provided by the drones, ZRA anti-smuggling officers simply rushed to the area and impounded the trucks.

We, therefore, implore ZRA and other security wings to consider using this technology widely to coordinate and curb smuggling including other related crimes given that drones are able to cover a wide area in a short time and provide vital information.   Prevention is better than cure and these devices can do just that.

Yes, the technology might be expensive but it is worthwhile compared to the billions of Kwacha which the government is losing daily through smuggling and other tax evasion activities.

No matter how long it takes, smuggling must be stopped and culprits caged because they were a menace to the economy.

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