BURS, Police Clash Over Levels of Alcohol Smuggling

  • Police say alcohol smuggling is a concern but not too much of a problem
  • BURS insists Botswana loses billions in alcohol smuggling
  • Police say alcohol smuggling has actually gone down since the SoE was lifted


Botswana Police Services (BPS) is not backing Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) because it disagrees with the tax agency over levels of alcohol smuggling into Botswana and estimated losses in billions of Pula over the years.

BPS spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Dipheko Motube told The Botswana Gazette in a brief interview this week that although there have been a number of alcohol smuggling cases, the situation has not turned into a crisis.

“Yes, we do have cases of alcohol smuggling, but it is not something that we experience very frequently,” Motube said. “The number of alcohol smuggling cases has really dropped since the end of the lockdowns and the COVID-19 regulations.

Tobacco smuggling
“The situation was made worse by prevailing circumstances at the time. What I do know is that we are starting to see a trend of illicit tobacco smuggling.”

On the other hand, BURS is insisting that the smuggling of alcohol into Botswana is a problem that needs immediate intervention.

To that end, the taxman has rather controversially engaged a US-based company, Authentix, on a 10-year deal for attachment of tax stamps on all alcohol and tobacco products entering Botswana.

The Department of Immigration, BPS, and BURS are three of the lead agencies tasked with minding the country’s borders.

BB against tax stamps
In the course of the controversy, the alcohol and tobacco industries asked BURS provide statistics to back its claims of excessive smuggling of these products but to no avail.
Business Botswana (BB) has also strongly spoken against implementation of the tax stamps system for fear that it could lead to hefty prices for the products and even cause some businesses to collapse.

Together with the Botswana Alcohol Industry Association, the organisation has argued for use of cheaper solutions.

Some industry players have asked for law enforcement and investigating agencies to look deeper into the matter.

Several attempts to contact the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame, on the matter and concerns raised by BB and other stakeholders have proved futile.