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Govt must address chaos at Beitbridge Border Post


Govt must address chaos at Beitbridge Border Post

Source: The Herald

 

Thupeyo Muleya Senior Reporter
People visiting Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (zimra) offices across the country are welcomed by banners at the reception inscribed “We Are Here To Serve” and workers wearing T-shirts inscribed “I am not corrupt’’. Psychologically, this prepares the visitors for an on-the-dot type of service, which sadly, is yet to be witnessed since zimra’s inception in 2001.

The messages at the parastatal’s offices are also a common feature at the country’s ports of entries.

However, besides displaying those motivating messages, travellers concur that zimra has become a nightmare for importers and exporters because of the treatment they get at the country’s border posts, especially in Beitbridge.

Congestion at Beitbridge Border Post is largely blamed on zimra.

It is understood that 95 percent of cargo transported in the region by road is delayed by up to three days at Beitbridge, increasing transport costs by about $500 per truck per day.

The congestion results in $200 million loss in production, tourism traffic and revenue annually.

An average of 14 000 travellers and 600 in-bound haulage trucks access the border post per day.

The numbers have nosedived in the past two years as importers and travellers opt for other ports of entry or means of transport to avoid the chaos at Beitbridge.

However, zimra says most of the delays are a result of human resource shortages.

zimra Beitbridge has a staff complement of 307 workers against a requirement of 526. This manpower shortage has contributed to rising cases of extortion and rent-seeking behaviour.

People spend long hours trying to clear their goods with zimra, amid reports of a casual approach to business by officials.

At Beitbridge, customs officers at the red route zone (where people with goods to declare are assisted), popularly known as Kugomba, top the list of inefficiency and arrogance with travellers bearing the brunt of the atrocious service.

Further, lack of specialisation among customs officers, who are transferred regularly has created more problems than solutions for travellers.

In addition the mercenary attitude among border officials has contributed to the collapse of standards.

For instance, the volume of travellers who accessed the country through Beitbridge Border Post in December last year was down by 42 percent compared to the same period in 2014.

This is attributed to the depreciation of the South African rand and that other travellers now prefer the less busy Plumtree and Mpeongs border posts.

Many taskforce teams have been to the border post on fact finding missions but the situation has not changed.

It is high time Government walks the talk and address the rot at the border post to maximise revenue collection.

Government should have a deliberate policy, where names of all border officials are printed on their uniforms for ease of identification to arrest corruption. At the moment they tend to conceal name tags.

Furthermore, zimra must open more cash points within the border so that people have their goods assessed for duty and pay the levies at the same point. At the moment people have to hop from one counter to another, causing delays for importers.

The Government collects an average of $2 million at Beitbridge Border Post from zimra alone, excluding money from tourists’ visas, haulage trucks coupons, New Limpopo Bridge toll fees, permits and licences and it boggles the mind why they fail to deploy adequate staff.

On the other hand, zimra has been complaining about accommodation woes for its staff when they can afford to splash millions on vehicles and housing loans for their top brass.

Analysts believe that lack of co-ordination and accountability at the border posts has created a lot of room for inefficiency.

Cabinet, however, recently approved the setting up of the National Ports Authority (NPA) to co-ordinate operations and to attend to challenges at Zimbabwe’s ports of entry.

South Africa has such an authority, making it easy to deal with operational and administrative issues.

The proposed NPA will fall under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and be tasked with running all of the country’s entry and exit points.

It is believed the authority will address operations, administration, security and health, among other issues.

Stakeholders at the border posts include the Department of Immigration, insurance companies, police, Ministries of Health, Environmental Management Authority, Forestry Commission, transport, Veterinary Services, agriculture and private security companies.

The NPA should have enough funds to expand borders such as Beitbridge, where infrastructure is also a challenge. It is sad zimra is the leading agency in terms of infrastructure maintenance and ownership, though most of the problems at our borders emanate from the same organisation.

This is very awkward situation as travellers will be complaining to the same organisation about its services.

Ministries of finance, foreign affairs, and transport and home affairs should expedite full implementation of the one-stop border post concept between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Bogus customs clearing agents, beggars, touts, conmen have also contributed to the madness at Beitbridge Border Post.

The Government must also set up an accreditation body for customs clearing agents and freight forwarders, which would go a long way in addressing issues such as corruption.