Motorcyclists find gold in aiding traders to evade tax at Songwe Border

Written by on January 9, 2024

By Wezzie Mwangonde

On the wrong side of the law: Kabaza operator captured at Songwe Border post
On the wrong side of the law: Kabaza operator captured at Songwe Border post

Aiding of traders to evade tax through unchartered routes has become a hot business for kabaza motorcycle taxi operators at Songwe Border.

A minute drive along the Songwe Border road one is greeted by numerous motorcycle taxi operators carrying huge piles of products, especially soft drinks, meandering through the unchartered routes in the nearby villages up until they reach the Karonga Township.

Hundreds of cross-border traders from Malawi travel to Tanzania through Songwe Border, which is 40 kilometers from the northern part of Karonga district.

However, it has been established that kabaza operators help business owners to evade tax at the border by transporting their goods through unchartered routes while in certain instances, they pay only K1,000 at the border and find their way through to Karonga Township.

One of the motorcyclist at Songwe Border (name withheld), said his usual task is to help business owners smuggle soft drinks from Kasumulu Border post in Tanzania into the country as a way of supporting business owners not to pay tax at the border.

He said at times, he uses the same border to cross but we pay K1,000 per trip to police officers and the guards and he is told to meander through and escape without the knowledge of the Malawi Revenue Authorities officials.

“We help business owners transport soft drinks from Kasumulu Border post to Malawi through Songwe Border without paying tax and we assist a number of customers on daily basis.

“Sometimes we use unchartered routes via Songwe River where goods are transported by a canoe into the country. However, this route is risky because when caught by Tanzanian officials, they confiscate everything including the motorcycle. The operators are also apprehended,” he said.

Principle Group Village Headman Mwandenga in Senior Traditional Authority Mwakaboko, testified that illegal entry of soft drinks from Tanzania into the country by motorists is very common in her area saying the malpractice contributes to loss of tax revenue for the country.

Mwandenga said the country is in need of lots of development but motorcycle operators contributes to underdevelopment by supporting business owners to evade tax at the border.

“At my house, I have closed the unchartered route from Songwe River where these motorists were using to transport soft drinks illegally,” She explained.

In his remarks, economic expert Kingsley Jassi said people in the country are experiencing economic hardships, therefore, there is need for the country to address economic fundamentals that are pushing people into crimes thereby contributing to challenges of law enforcers in reducing these crimes.

Jassi said when a country is going through economic challenges, business people find solace in illegal means for survival thereby contributing to increase in crimes caused by illegal practices hence people travel to Tanzania to get cheap goods so that they make more profits by smuggling which is against the law.

“We need to have industries in the country that offer goods at cheaper prices to reduce the number of people smuggling goods from Tanzania. Motorcycle operators are also supposed to be empowered with business opportunities so that they do not indulge themselves in smuggling goods from Tanzania,” said Jassi.

Head of Cooperate Affairs at Malawi Revenue Authority Steve Kapoloma says they will continue educating and creating awareness on the dangers of smuggling goods into the country so that people should be encouraged and be aware of the penalties under the law as the country relies on the same revenue generated from tax for different development projects and social welfare.

Meanwhile, he has called for cooperation with government agencies and private stakeholders in order to deal with issues of safeguarding life and property as most of the smuggled goods might be harmful to human life.

“We will continue working hand in hand with other government agencies in order to make sure that only certified goods are allowed to be transported into the country. The law will take its course on the people found aiding people to smuggle goods into the country,” said Kapoloma.

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