IT has come to light that some hard-boiled smugglers, who shunt into Tanzania small quantities of goods at a time, evade taxation by using unofficial routes known as “panya routes” in the parlance of the criminal underworld.
Police in Kilimanjaro region, for example, often intercept suspects using motorcycles to transport a variety of illegal goods. A few weeks ago the law enforcement officers impounded kerosene and cooking oil loaded on a motorbike that had no registration number plate.
Tanzania, however, is not the only East African nation that experiences this nagging headache. Smugglers at Taveta, along the Kenya-Tanzania boarder, continue to make a kill from illicit trade in smuggled goods.
This scenario was expected to end following the opening of a one stop boarder post two years ago, with the key goal of ending smuggling. The smugglers use ‘panya routes’, thereby evading government scrutiny and costing Kenya millions in lost revenue.
In Tanzania, of course, it is not the first time we are told about the exploits of smuggling villains across the porous Tanzania-Kenya border. In fact, the border is so open that anyone with feet can walk across.
No wonder there are numerous footpaths disparagingly called “panya routes” It is these mostly unpatrolled networks of informal routes that smugglers use often riding motorcycles, bicycles, donkeys or simply travelling on foot by night.
Some of the cargo they shunt into this country may be counterfeit, substandard, fake or even stolen. But the Tanzania-Kenya boundary is not the only trouble spot that gives law enforcers a nagging headache. Tanga region has small clandestine ports that are infested by notorious smugglers.
These too are a pain-in-the-neck for the law enforcement outfit. The Tanga coastal line has 17 landing sites that handle mostly undeclared small cargo. They are a haven for smugglers. These greedy morons are also notorious pests in Horohoro, Sirari, Mtukula and Tunduma border towns.
They are also an economic menace at Kisiju, Boko, Bagamoyo, Namanga, Holili, Tarakea, Songwe and other landing locations. The ability of state institutions to police or regulate the conduct of persons living in such areas or using such routes is limited.
It would be remiss on our part not to mention here that given the porous borders with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, it is no surprise that such routes do exist. If no remedial action is taken the canker will proliferate.
Worse still, any goods impounded can still enter the market due to corruption which is on a wider scale in Tanzania. Poverty, low prices and lack of consumer awareness of tax evasion effects are also responsible for the rampant trade in smuggled goods.