Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
There was chaos at Beitbridge Border Post on Saturday after haulage truck drivers blocked the exit gate on the arrivals commercial section in protest against what they called poor service delivery by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), although officials were blaming truckers who do not want their cargo sealed.
For the better part of the day, traffic —mainly trucks — clogged the commercial arrivals section. It is reported that all truck drivers, both carrying goods in transit and for the local market, united to force Zimra officials to improve on efficiency and service delivery.
In separate interviews, the truckers said they were not happy with the manner in which traffic was managed, especially those carrying transit cargo.
“We spend more than three days here with Zimra saying they have run out of electronic seals for our cargo. Currently they are putting us in batches of 30 trucks, which they then escort to the next port of exit using one vehicle. This is a frustrating process considering that they release the escort vehicle once per day,” said a driver who chose anonymity.
He said the idea of escorting vehicles in batches created unnecessary delays adding that any such delay was eating into their salaries.
“Most of us are paid salaries based on the trips we make per month and a delay of three or four days is not good at all. We are calling on the government to urgently look into the issues around the customs clearance of transit cargo, ” he added.
He said they were concerned with the continued breakdown of the automated system for customs data (Asycuda World plus).
The new Statutory Instrument No 113 on control of transit cargo, makes it mandatory that no cargo shall depart any port of entry before all the details are captured into the electronic clearance system.
A Beitbridge based transporter, Mr Osbert Shumba said vehicles started moving at around 2am yesterday when the Asycuda system had been fixed.
“This is not good for business, we need to engage the customs authority and government, so that we may arrive at a solution. It seems we are having a system of people working on saving their jobs rather than serving the nation. Many transporters are contemplating abandoning the Zimbabwe route, while some have already done so due to the situation here (Beitbridge). Such a development is not good for international trade,” said Mr Shumba.
Zimra’s head of communications, Mr Canisio Mudzimu could not be reached through his mobile phone yesterday. However, some border authorities said the chaos was being fueled by a few transporters who do not want to comply with the new cargo tracking system.
“We have enough seals, it’s just that there are few individuals who want to cause unnecessary confusion,” said the official.
A total of 300 transit trucks pas through Beitbridge border post daily, while 600 are destined for the local market. Government this year introduced electronic cargo seals to deal with issues of transit fraud which is rife.
Transit fraud resulted in situations where importers declare that goods are in transit (removal in transit –RIT) to neighbouring countries yet the cargo is offloaded in Zimbabwe.
As a result of such activities the country was losing a lot of potential revenue to the criminals. Under the customs laws specified goods attract excise duty during importation into the country.