In Zimbabwe, it is the smugglers that bring goods into Zimbabwe illegally that often get all the attention. The thing though is that there are two types of smugglers, those that bring goods into the country illegally and those that smuggle goods out of the country illegally. Illegal exports result in lost revenue and lost excise duty. To counter this, growing trend the government of Zimbabwe passed SI 223 of 2022 towards the end of last year.

The law introduces penalties and fines for those caught illegally exporting goods out of Zimbabwe. According to the law, goods being exported out of Zimbabwe ought to be exported via legally authorised routes and in accordance with proper applicable customs regulations. Smugglers often make use of illicit entry points in forests and across rivers. Recently Zimbabwe and its neighbours have stepped up efforts to try and stop people form using these routes. According to SI 223 of 2022, those caught smuggling gods out of Zimbabwe face various forms of punishment including:

  • The goods they are transporting will be liable to seizure
  • The driver and people involved may be liable to pay a fine of US$500
  • If these goods were protected using an electronic seal the offender will be required to pay a penalty of US$1 300
  • The transporter will be liable to a fine of US$2 000 for using a non-official port of entry.

Will this stop smuggling?

There are a lot of reasons why people smuggle goods out of the country. Among these are a desire to avoid paying excise duty and an unwillingness to surrender export proceeds which might have to be converted to ZWL at official rates. People and companies might also smuggle if whatever they are exporting is banned or requires some onerous permission that they might not be able to get. Examples of smuggled items include tobacco which is popular in South Africa, gold and other minerals. These reasons will continue to exist even in the wake of the new law. Often smugglers just pay bribes to those manning the entry points. These fines will just give these officials more bargaining power to demand higher bribes.

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