Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
A potentially volatile situation is looming at the country’s ports of entry amid reports that some freight forwarders who process the export and imports of commercial cargo could withdraw their services over the continued harassment by security officials.
It is reported that since the start of the lockdown on January 5, several freight forwarders have been rounded up by authorities at the borders and inland although these fall under the essential services bracket.
This is common at Beitbridge border post which is the country’s major land trade facilitation point.
An estimated 700 000 trucks pass through Beitbridge border post annually with cargo destined to various countries within the SADC region.
“If the harassment continues, we might end up withdrawing our services and this is not good. Commercial cargo will pile up at the borders and this is not good for business,” said a customs agent who preferred not to be named.
In a public notice yesterday, the Shipping and Freight Forwarders Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chief executive officer, Joseph Musariri said its members have had many challenges operating under the current lockdown conditions.
“Our members’ core business is facilitation of the movement of goods across the borders (imports, exports including transit cargo). They operate from both the inland ports and border posts and we are part of the essential services (globally),” he said.
Musariri said currently, the freight forwarders operating inland and at border post were failing to work due to a number of locked down restrictions.
He said some were being arrested for operating without ‘certain documents’ and operating after the curfew, this is despite the fact that some borders operate on a 24-hour basis.
“We have applied to the Permanent Secretary of Health and Child Care (Dr Jasper Chimedza) to get the necessary help and we are yet to get a response; hence the continued challenges facing our members,” he said.
According to the notice, the situation obtaining at the ports of entries has become a cause for concern and hence the need for authorities to intervene.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care spokesperson, Donald Mujiri said the freight forwarders should approach the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for processing of the exemption documents.
“We have had engagements with them and other stakeholders, where we agreed that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should assist with issuing out exemptions.
“That’s the position on the ground and they must use that channel as agreed. Our ministry can only issue supporting letters where necessary, but the exemptions are processed by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce,” said Mujiri.
Concerning those operating in Beitbridge, the police officer commanding the district, Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said those freight forwarders experiencing challenges with the exemption, as outlined under the Covid-19 lockdown regulations should engage his office.