Shady dealings at Walvis customs
Thursday, 11 September 2008 12:02
THE growing population of young Namibians either studying or working in the United Kingdom say they experience endless problems when trying to bring second hand cars purchased abroad back to Namibia.
Namibians bringing back second hand cars regularly complain about the multitude of hassles and red tape they face when importing such cars from the UK into Namibia. They charge that Walvis Bay customs officials deliberately obstruct and delay customs clearance of vehicles in an effort to extract bribes. The customs department often impounds vehicles because documentation is supposedly not in order, or the importer has not paid the required duties or taxes.
The fact that no one seems to have heard of an auction where the state sells impounded vehicles has also raised suspicion.
Director of Customs and Excise Godfrey Kabozu however, denies that customs officials deliberately obstruct the importation of vehicles by returning Namibians.
“Clearance of the vehicles are not deliberately obstructed; delays are rather caused by importers not following prescribed procedures and presenting documents that are incomplete,” Kabozu said.
Despite Kabozu’s denial, allegations of bribery, corruption and theft of goods at Walvis Bay Customs are so widespread they have become difficult to ignore.
The Director failed to answer any of the written questions sent to him about bribery and theft at the Walvis Bay Customs office.
Victims however, say customs officials regularly claim non-existent errors in the documentation in order to solicit bribes.
Those with first-hand experience say people can spend anything between three days, a week or longer trying to clear a vehicle through customs at Walvis Bay.
Elderly people, who have travelled from far to collect vehicles sent by their children, are often forced to sleep overnight in the open, outside the Walvis Bay customs office. Reports of radio tapes, engine management computers and other valuable vehicle accessories disappearing are common.
Furthermore, three or four weeks later, someone mysteriously appears on their doorstep offering to sell them the exact model of radio tape or computer box that disappeared from their vehicle.
Eyewitnesses have seen vehicles stored in Customs with either broken windows or doors — telltale signs they have been broken into.
According to one source, a couple packed and locked almost their entire household into the back of a truck to ship to Namibia, but when they cleared the truck at Walvis Bay, it was virtually empty.
The government imposed a ban on the importation of second hand vehicles older than five years in January 2005. Government however makes provision for people who change their permanent residence to import vehicles subject to rebate 407.04 of the Customs & Excise Act of 1998. The regulations however state that if people import more than one vehicle they require an import permit and full duties become payable.