Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
TRUCKS, mainly those carrying goods known as consolidated cargo, have been piling up at Beitbridge Border Post in the past five days after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) introduced the 100 percent compliance searches.
Cross-border transporters commonly known as omalayitsha yesterday accused Zimra of implementing the new system while ill prepared.
Over 70 trucks were seen waiting at the border on the commercial arrival side and the drivers had become restless.
In separate interviews, the truckers said the revenue authority had no adequate manpower to conduct the physical examination of goods.
They said in some cases they were being made to pay additional duty despite having utilised the pre-clearance system to minimise delays.
Under the pre-clearance system, goods are declared and duty is paid for before the consignment gets to the respective port of entry.
Once these goods arrive, they are only checked for compliance making the crossing seamless.
This is opposed to a scenario where the whole clearance process is imitated upon arrival at the country’s borders.
“I have been here for four days. Nothing is moving and most of us are carrying groceries, among them perishables.
“Customs authorities want to search every vehicle. We don’t have any problem with that, but our concerns arise from the fact that they are searching between two and three trucks daily which is not attainable,” said Mr Aron Mangavha.
Another driver, who preferred anonymity, said they had tried to engage the local Zimra managers in the last three days without success.
He said the idea by Zimra to shift goal posts on import duty payments had set them on a collision course with their clients.
“This is antagonising our relationship with clients considering that declarations are made in advance and we have to go back to them asking for top ups,” said the driver.
Mr Nyasha Machaya said previously they would spend less than three hours to conclude all the border processes.
He said they were now incurring extra costs in hiring labour to offload and reload the goods, since Zimra has no adequate manpower.
“To make matters worse, we are at risk of Covid-19 infections as you can see, we are now crowded with limited ablution and related sanitation facilities,” he said.
Some truckers, mostly those plying the Beitbridge-Bulawayo road said they had suffered enough abuse within and outside the border post at the hands of security officials.
“We are concerned with the conduct of the security agencies who are always threatening us and demanding bribes despite having complied with all the border processes.
“For convenience sake, we are being made to pay R1 500 at each road block until we get to Bulawayo. This is getting out of hand,” alleged one driver.
Though, Zimra’s spokesperson, Mr Francis Chimanda could not readily respond to the issues yesterday, an official at Beitbridge said the 100 percent searches were a response to the rampant cases of smuggling involving rigid trucks (omalayitsha).
“There is an increase in cases of smuggling by these transporters, most of who making false declarations and hence the need to enforce compliance,” said the official.
In May, Zimra activated an imports relief facility to help Zimbabweans based in South Africa to send groceries and other goods home in commercial trucks through Beitbridge Border Post.
South Africa is home to thousands of Zimbabwe migrant workers, most of whom are supporting their families by sending groceries home through the services mostly of omalayitsha weekly.
Zimbabwe imports goods worth an estimated US$3 billion from South Africa annually.