Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (Zimra) Documented Processing Centres (DPC) have been hit by teething problems, which have resulted in cargo piling up mainly at Chirundu, Forbes and Beitbridge Border Posts.
Under the current set up all commercial bill of entries are being processed electronically and these are processed at Harare, Masvingo and Bulawayo DPC.
When these bills of entries are processed the trucks are then given the green-light to the port of entry of exit where authorities there only check for conformity.
Our Beitbridge Bureau understands that the closure of the Bulawayo (DPC) office recently due to the detection of a Covid-19 case has seen the revenue authority battling to clear a backlog of bills of entries. The developments has seen long haulage trucks leaving or entering the country spending more than three days for passage. Under normal circumstances 600 haulage trucks use the Beitbridge Border Post with 300 going either sides, but that has increased to nearly 1000 daily.
Zimra has, however, not responded to the issue of delays in the movement of cargo. However, it has been established that the situation has been exacerbated by an influx of trucks transiting through Zimbabwe after other traditional transit routes, which go through Botswana and Mozambique, were closed by the respective governments.
In the last few weeks more truck drivers have been prefering to transit through Zimbabwe to avoid a number of stringent lockdown regimes in the region.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been opened under the lockdown Level 2, which is aimed at facilitating regional and international trade. Most countries using Zimbabwe as a transit trade route include; Malawi, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique and Democratic People’s Republic of Congo.
Long queues have become common especially on south bound traffic, with haulage trucks filling most roads in the CBD.
According to the Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association (SFAAZ) the delay in movement of cargo was a cause for concern and some transporters and importers were incurring demurrage costs in the absence of official communication from Zimra.
SFAAZ chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Musariri, said they were engaging the revenue authority over the issue.
“The entries are now taking more than three days to be processed as compared to the standard turnaround time,” he said.
“However, we have engaged Zimra over the issue and they told us about the temporary closure of their Bulawayo office due to coronavirus, but they have assured us that the office has been re-opened.
“In addition, over the weekend the Harare DPC was closed for 14 hours for fumigation and we hope things will improve.
“With respect to Chirundu the border post will operating for 24 hours starting from yesterday (Sunday) to clear traffic. The other problem there is that there is limited parking space (for trucks) on the Zambian side”.
Mr Musariri said more trucks were now using mainly Chirundu and Beitbridge where Covid-19 screening was standard in comparison to other borders where drivers are being quarantined for specified periods, thereby slowing the movement of essential transit cargo.
He said Zimbabwe should make the best of the influx of transit trucks, which have reverted to its routes and derive maximum benefits.
Mr Musariri said some lorry drivers now avoid truck parks because of Covid-19 guidelines and now prefer to remain in queues while customs documents are being processed.
“Though we understand the explanation from Zimra, we are saying they should make the communication in black and white so that we communicate with our clients to minimise issues of demurrage costs.
“The other issue we have noted at Beitbridge is little space for both south and north-bound lorries to travers. So our proposal is that the south-bound traffic use the Alfred Beitbridge (Old Limpopo) whole north bound use the New Limpopo Bridge and all still pay toll fees to the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara). This will then ease congestions,” he said.
Mr Musariri said arrangements had been made in Zambia for transit trucks with essential commercial cargo to get an express route to avoid clogging the border.
An estimated 100 000 trucks pass through Beitbridge Border Post annually in transit to other Sadc countries.