“Way out of the crisis”: Zimbawe and Mozambique

Two articles: Znews.com: “Smugglers cost Zim billions“; the other one is the editorial page for The Herald (Zimbabwe)  “Curb Smuggling, Promote Trade“. Worthwile checking to get an impression of some of possible debates entailing what is happening in Zimbabwe – and, naturally, responses from Mozambique. This is a story to follow.
Smugglers cost Zim billions
author/source:Herald (Zimb)
published:Mon 12-Dec-2005
posted on this site:Mon 12-Dec-2005
Article Type : News
More than 200 smugglers cross the border at least three times each day

By Tawanda Kanhema . Billions of dollars worth of maize-meal and sugar are being illegally exported to Mozambique daily, creating an artificial shortage of the commodities in Zimbabwe. Well co-ordinated syndicates operating on both sides of the border are sneaking the products into Mozambique’s Mangwe town daily where smugglers converge and load the contraband into trucks, buses and vans for distribution. The syndicates use illegal crossing points dotted along the border. An investigation by The Herald revealed that some transporters were moving an average of 30 tonnes of maize-meal and sugar – worth over $200 million – from the border every day. On average, a single Mozambican transporter in Mangwe, a small settlement that now resembles a maize-meal and sugar depot, carries five tonnes of the Parlenta and Silo maize meal brands smuggled from Zimbabwe. Smuggling has become an industry in Mutare and Mangwe with thousands of people on both sides of the border literally living on it. Buses with trailers and commuter omnibuses carry smaller consignments. Houses in Mangwe have been turned into warehouses where smugglers stock their illegal imports before forwarding them to Manica and Beira for sale. One carton of sugar – made up of ten 2-kilogramme packs – costs $580 000 in Zimbabwe and fetches 300 000 meticals in Mozambique (Z$1,2 million), thus netting a profit of more than 100 percent for the smuggler, while a 10kg bag of maize-meal going for $130 000 in the country fetches more than $250 000 across the border. The profit margin for any contraband is well above 100 percent, therefore creating a lucrative market for smugglers. Ironically, trucks carrying maize-meal smuggled from Zimbabwe and truckloads of food aid destined for Zimbabwe are seen going in opposition directions as they pass through Mozambique’s Port of Beira. The contraband is carried through organised networks that use military tracks in mountains along the border and “merchants” involved in the illicit exportation of basic goods are making more than $20 million a day. The Herald reporter and a Mozambican guide, Jenito Antonio, disguised as vendors, took to the mountains to see how the smugglers go about their business. The smugglers use a kiosk near a base – manned jointly by army and police officers who are stationed there to guard a pipeline – as a warehouse from where the maize-meal and sugar are distributed. This is meant to reduce the time and labour it takes to transport the goods across the border. Climbing the mountain with a load of contraband takes up to two hours. “I carry up to 90kg of maize meal and 40kg of sugar everyday,” said one of the smugglers. He said they begin smuggling goods at around 2am. More than 200 smugglers cross the border at least three times each day and they are paid $700 000 a day for braving the steep mountain, risking losing limb and life to landmines and the prospect of arrest. The people buying consignments of maize-meal and sugar use the official crossing point at Forbes Border Post and make their payments at the kiosk barely 500 metres from the border and then hand over their contraband to the carriers, known as “majorijo”. They then go and wait for the majorijo on the Mozambican side, where they either warehouse or forward their consignments to other towns. On the mountain, they rest and hide some of their contraband in the bush, and the common meeting point for smugglers of all nationalities is on no-man’s land, where they believe neither Zimbabwean nor Mozambican security authorities can arrest them. The smugglers claimed they pay security authorities bribes to avoid being questioned. However, Manicaland police provincial spokesman Inspector Joshua Tigere said these were just a few misguided elements that were tarnishing the force’s image and said police were conducting intensive patrols to eradicate smuggling. He said: “I cannot deny or confirm these allegations, but members of the force who were involved in cases of bribery at the border were discharged from their duties last year, and we need to rid society of such elements. “It’s a cause for concern when we have food shortages here yet we are able to feed Mozambique that much through the illegal exportation of food,” said Inspector Tigere. “We are going to intensify our border operations and bust the smuggling syndicates.” On December 2, police in Mutare confiscated 12 bales of used clothes that were being smuggled from Mozambique, and 550kg of maize-meal and other miscellaneous goods which were being taken in the opposite direction. The contraband was valued at $100 million. A truckload of maize-meal destined for Mozambique was also recovered two weeks ago in joint operations by the army and police. Since October 21, police have arrested 498 smugglers on Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, recovering 8 240kg of maize-meal, 2 000kg of sugar, 100kg of maize seed, 200kg of rice, 4 616 bars of soap, 21 bags of tobacco and other miscellaneous items. Of the 498 smugglers arrested along the border, 400 were Zimbabweans and 98 Mozambicans. Inspector Tigere said the quantities confiscated showed that organised syndicates were behind the smuggling. But police would work towards curbing the practice, he said. Zimbabwean and Mozambican police have made arrangements to patrol the no-man’s-land, which many smugglers are now using as a free zone where they can hide contraband and rest during their activities.

Curb Smuggling, Promote Trade

The Herald (Harare)

EDITORIAL
December 12, 2005
Posted to the web December 12, 2005

Harare

ZIMBABWE has been short of sugar for many months despite producing enough for local consumption and some modest exports simply because so much is smuggled into Mozambique.

Even now, with exchange rates adjusted to market-related levels, sugar still costs more than twice as much in Mozambique as it does in Zimbabwe, making it very tempting for smugglers.

Now maize-meal has been brought into the smuggling rings built up along the Mozambican border near Mutare, again because this costs more than twice as much in Mozambique as it does in Zimbabwe.

The net result is that more than $1 billion worth of processed sugar and maize moves east across the border each week through just one well-used crossing point.

Both sugar and maize-meal, as a result, can be in short supply in Zimbabwe, although strenuous recent efforts by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and the millers do mean that maize-meal shortages are not critical.

But what it also means, now that Zimbabwe has exhausted the drought-hit 2005 harvest, is that this country has to use its scarce foreign currency to import maize not just for Zimbabwe, but also for a decent chunk of Mozambique.

The long-term solution to the problem is simple.

Zimbabwean farmers simply have to produce enough sugar and maize to supply all this country’s needs and have a decent surplus for export.

It is useful to know that in Mozambique there is a market for processed Zimbabwean foods and it should not be difficult for the foreign trade diplomats to negotiate a simple trade agreement, if the present ones do not fit the case, to allow such exports.

This means the export earnings will be made by reputable companies who have to sell their foreign currency through the legal system, rather than by smugglers buying trinkets and fuelling the black market.

It is much cheaper to truck goods legally across a border, rather than hire porters to carry them through a minefield, so the smugglers will be put out of business by legal business.

In the short term, better enforcement of the law is needed.

It is difficult to believe that 200 people a day can cross through a fairly short stretch of border without anyone seeing them or doing much to stop them.

It does not require 100 percent effectiveness to stop smuggling.

Catching one load in three, looking at the sums earned, should be enough to bankrupt the smuggling rings.

And that should be possible for law enforcement agencies to achieve.

It is wrong that most Zimbabweans go without sugar and cannot always buy maize meal just so that a few can earn large sums running smuggling rings.

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