Drone technology deployed to plug porous borders

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube (centre) officially launches the Zimra drone monitoring project at Beitbridge Border Post yesterday. The multi-rotor drones which use infrared can scan an area of between 15km and 100km and can be flown at night or during bad weather.

GOVERNMENT has deployed drones and fast cargo scanners at the Beitbridge Border Post as it intensifies the use of modern technologies to curb invasive leakages and smuggling through ports of entry to maximise revenue collection while promoting transparency and accountability in line with global best practices.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, officially launched the drones, fast cargo scanners and electronic cargo tracking systems here yesterday.

He said the equipment will result in increased surveillance in all hotspot areas, improve service delivery to clients, and reduce the loss of critical revenue, which the Treasury needs for financing development projects.

Prof Ncube said similar technologies will soon be deployed to other ports of entry/exit including Forbes and Chirundu.

Already, the automation of services and separation of traffic at the transformed Beitbridge Border Post has become a game changer by facilitating enhanced efficiency systems at the country’s busiest port of entry.

“The Government is working on a raft of measures to boost its revenue collection capacity at the border. Under the current setup, the border agencies are now able to clear commercial cargo arriving at Beitbridge faster compared to more than 24 hours in the last decade,” said Prof Ncube.

“I am impressed and proud of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) — as a national institution of strategic importance — for the work they are doing in boosting revenue collection. 

THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has announced that Tax clearance certificates will be accessible only through the new tax and revenue management systems (TaRMS) through the self-service portal.

Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)

“Today we have launched drones, electronic cargo tracking systems (ECTS), and fast scanners to boost efficiency systems.

“What started as a written vision has become a reality when the nation is still basking in the glory of the Beitbridge Border transformation, and what we are launching today is a continuation of our development trajectory.”

The drones, ECTS and fast scanners project, said Minister Ncube, is a reaffirmation of the Second Republic’s mantra that Zimbabwe can only be built by Zimbabweans. 

He said there is a great improvement in efficiency in the clearing of commercial trucks.

Already, some commercial transporters who had abandoned the Zimbabwean route have started returning due to improved service delivery.

As such, Prof Ncube said the implementation of the single window facility will also ensure that compliance and enforcement processes are streamlined to reduce the time exporters/importers are spending at the border.

“We hope that the hi-tech equipment we have launched here has helped to build the capacity of the security cluster to repeal criminal activities on the border flanks,” he said.

The Treasury boss said the Government was losing a lot of potential import/export revenue to smuggling activities along the border.

“We are procuring a lot of hi-tech equipment to minimise the human interface that at times promotes corruption,” he added.

“This is very necessary for us to launch this drone monitoring programme, which we will continue to expand to make sure our borders are safe.

“At the same time, it’s important to note that Zimra and other security agencies are working together to ensure we have border and revenue security.”

The ECTS was introduced to curb transit fraud and is expected to go a long way in safeguarding revenue in line with customs regulations.

The system monitors the movement of transit cargo from the point of entry into Zimbabwe up to the point of exit and ensures that there is no tampering with the consignment along the designated route.

Transit fraud results in situations where importers declare that goods are in transit (removal in transit — RIT) to neighbouring countries yet the cargo is offloaded in Zimbabwe.

Professor Mthuli Ncube

In most cases, commercial goods are transported in tankers, containers, and flatbed trailers covered with tents (break bulk).

“Our mandate is to collect revenue on behalf of the Government and the demand for funds under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) puts a lot of pressure on Zimra,” Zimra Commissioner-General, Ms Regina Chinamasa, said.

“So, we are introducing drone technology to assist us plug the revenue leakages and you will note that Beitbridge Border Post is one of the biggest ports in the country, which contributes to our revenue base.

“So, we have noted that there is a lot of smuggling at the border and we need adequate technology to assist the human resource that is manning the port of entry and ensure that we plug the revenue leakages passing through the border and its parameter area.”

Zimra’s director of information communication technology (ICT), Mr Shami Moyo, said the drone project is one of their pillars for automation of services.

He said Zimra has invested in two types of drones with the capacity to go up to over 120 metres and scan an area between 15km and 100km, with enhanced night vision.

These, Mr Moyo said, could be flown at night or even when there is bad weather without losing track of the subject. 

“We have to be efficient, all we need is the ability to fly up and increase surveillance and promptly react where anomalies are picked on the ground,” he said.

At the peak of smuggling a decade ago, Zimra introduced cargo and baggage scanners to curtail intrusive leakages across borders. 

However, the vice has stood the test of time, with syndicates ever-changing tact to beat the system.

In some instances, Zimra is forced to introduce the 100 percent searches on goods being imported from South Africa as consolidated cargo and the move has helped to reduce smuggling and improve revenue collections.


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