If you have ever imported either a brand new or a pre-owned vehicle into Zimbabwe then you are quite familiar with how torrid the experience can be. The time it takes to get the vehicle cleared at the border has always been subject to delays. This is one of the reasons why corruption and underhand dealings are characteristic of customs clearance at the border. In fact, delays have for the most part been deliberate to nudge people to bribe customs officials for their papers to be expedited. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is of course in charge of customs and has recently decided to review the vehicle clearance process.

Vehicle Imports In Zimbabwe

Vehicle imports have been one of the ZIMRA’s biggest tax earners. The rapid spike in vehicle ownership in Zimbabwe over the past several years is attributable to pre-owned vehicle importations. Whilst this has opened doors for more revenue collection and opened doors for many to afford cheap cars, it does come with its downsides. I was remarking the other day that probably empirical research has not been done but I bet you these second-hand cars have caused so many deaths and injuries through accidents. Anyways, second vehicle imports are processed at Malindi, Manica, and Beitbridge bonded warehouses. They are known as transit-sheds. Brand new vehicles and those eligible for immigrant rebates are processed at the border post though.

The ZIMRA Acting Regional Manager, Beitbridge, Mr William Gadzikwa recently issued a communique to Beitbridge Transit-Shed Managers which read as follows:

Please be advised that with effect from March 16, 2021, there will be no printing of the CCCs from clearance to registration since all the necessary information will be readily available in the computerised system accessed by both ZIMRA and the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR). Take note of this latest development regarding documents from your valued clients.”

Take Note: CCC stands for Certificate of Customs Clearance

He added that the equipment number is what will be used as the premise upon which details of a vehicle are verified in the computerised system.

How The Old System Worked

The old system entailed the issuance of a Certificate of Customs Clearance (CCC) to the one importing the vehicle. It was the proof that would validate that all due processes had been adhered to and completed. That is where the loophole was for conniving customs officials. The whole framework was now infested with middle persons (in collusion with ZIMRA officials) who would delay document processing. This was all in a bid to get the importer to end up paying bribes to speed up the processing of their papers. Bribes would range from around US$20 to US$40 or even more, according to research. You can imagine how many people per day would be subjected to this – some people were making huge amounts of money in a corrupt way. In fact, it is reported that somewhere around 200 vehicles are processed per day.

Some Things To Know Regarding Vehicle Clearance

A commercial invoice is required and so is an export bill of entry. If the car is a second hand one from South Africa, proof that it was de-registered in South Africa is required. South Africa registration books and South African police clearances for cars from South Africa are also required. Bear in mind that clearance and payment of duty must be done before the vehicle arrives at a port of entry.

You must know that last year ZIMRA introduced a pre-clearance system. It issued the following statement last year: “With effect from November 1, 2020, importers are advised that goods imported by road into Zimbabwe must be pre-cleared before their arrival. All privately imported motor vehicles driven or transported by car carriers must be pre-cleared before they are dispatched to Zimbabwe. Motor vehicles can only be loaded onto carriers or driven into the country when the relevant processes have been completed, including the payment of duties, where applicable. Clearance details must be sent to the carrier to enable them to load vehicles. Please take note that carriers have been notified of this requirement.’’

In theory, this latest development means no more delays in waiting to get a CCC printed. Let us wait and see how this pans out especially to see if there will be a marked change in the whole vehicle clearance experience. At least, on the surface, people might no longer get to be fleeced of their hard-earned money trying to expedite some processes.