This week, hundreds of imported cars remained strapped to the top of trucks as the taxman suspended trading at the majority of warehouses in Mogoditshane.
With the warehouses closed, frustrated car-haulers were left with nowhere to offload their imports and remained stranded by the roadside.
This comes after Botswana Unified Revenue Service’s (BURS) recent declaration of war on grey import dealers in the Kweneng District town.
Angry dealers accused BURS of sabotage by delaying the tax clearance on their imports – a move which they say has left them unable to sell their stock.
They further claimed the tax watchdog has temporarily stopped the importation of grey import vehicles, commonly referred to as ‘Fong Kongs’.
However, BURS General Manager- Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement, Kaone Molapo dismissed both accusations as false.
“We are addressing a situation of economic sabotage; it is worse than you can imagine,” declared Molapo, stressing the law forbids BURS from closing off the borders to imports.
He maintained that those who abide by the law and submit correct valuations are free to carry on with business.
Molapo further revealed BURS have seized over 4, 000 vehicles suspected to have been undervalued in an attempt to pay less tax and import duties.
The revenue service suspect garages in Mogoditshane, as well as the rest of Botswana, collude with suppliers in Durban, South Africa, by writing incorrect invoices.
Speaking to The Voice on condition of anonymity, a dealer, whose garage is one of the few to remain open, described BURS’ campaign as ‘political propaganda’.
Pointing out the stranded trucks, he said, “Some have been here since the weekend because there is no where they can offload. Some drivers got fed up of waiting and just uploaded outside and went back to South Africa, they just left the keys with security guards! This has left warehouses with the burden of having to engage more security to look after these cars offloaded outside.”
The man further claimed BURS have known about the grey import tax dodge for years and wondered why they had decided to act on it now.
“It is propaganda,” he reiterated, adding that a number of potential customers were left disappointed at the weekend.
“Scores of people arrived to find garages with tapes of BURS on gates. They probably learnt through the media about the operation and wanted to buy before all the cars were impounded.”
The source further revealed that due to the stand-off between the garage owners and the taxman, further jobs have been affected.
“People would come and buy cars then proceed to install sound systems, alarms and tires. But now all this has been affected because no cars are being bought!”