- Tax Commissioner speaks 10-year imprisonment terms and P1m in fines
- Sniffer dogs and high tech anti-smuggling devices in use at the border
Smuggling of fresh produce has grown at an alarming rate since the government imposed a ban on importation of fruits and vegetables last December, the Commissioner General of Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), Jeannette Makgolo, told journalists last week.
Speaking at an engagement with the editors of media houses at BURS on Monday, Makgolo said the taxman will come down hard on smugglers who face penalties of imprisonment of up to 10 years or up to P1 million or thrice the value of goods they are found with under the Customs Act.
A fine of P50 000 will be levied on first offenders caught smuggling vegetables valued at less than P2 500, second offenders fined P150 000 fine while repeat offenders will be prosecuted. In all smuggling instances, BURS will confiscate the vegetables and the containers in which they are found kept. Makgolo said those found smuggling vegetables valued over P2 500 a fine of P450 000 for first offenders and the produce forfeited to the state. Second offenders risk a P850 000 fine and forfeiture of the goods while repeat offenders will face criminal proceedings. “We have also heightened our anti-smuggling efforts by reinforcing scanner operations, canine units and our Flexible Anti-Smuggling Teams (FAST) at our borders,” Makgolo said.
The government imposed an import ban on fruits and vegetable imports in December last year as a measure to support horticultural farmers in Botswana and drive local production. Banned produce includes tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, chili peppers, butternut, watermelons, sweet peppers, green mealies and fresh herbs. The Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao, recently told the annual conference of HATAB in Kasane that the ban will be reviewed every two years to add more items to it and that it is here to stay.