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SA loadshedding triggers Beitbridge border chaos

by Staff reporter
21 Sep 2022 at 05:59hrs | Views
Continued loadshedding in South Africa with delays in delivering diesel for the South African back-up generator has seen commercial cargo piling up at Beitbridge Border Post with trucks stretching in both directions as the South African customs on-line systems for cargo are frequently down.

At the moment Eskom of South Africa has been effecting stages 4 and 6 in terms of electricity load shedding with the stage 6 meaning power down for at least six hours a day, possibly in two-hour cycles.

At the same time the tanks ran dry for the back-up generator on the South African side, although officials last night were reporting a delivery of diesel, which should allow a return to normal clearance.

Things came to a head on Monday when the load shedding affected both the immigration and customs online system used to process commercial cargo in South Africa.

The immigration system was brought back up but the customs system has challenges and as a result South African Revenue Services (SARS) officials were yesterday failing to process bills of entry for commercial cargo leaving or entering that country.

Starting from Monday afternoon, south-bound trucks had filled most major roads in Beitbridge town, with queues stretching for over 8km into Zimbabwe. An average of 900 commercial trucks are cleared for passage between South Africa and Zimbabwe daily via the Beitbridge Border Post.

In separate interviews, commercial truck drivers said they had become anxious and that most of them had been in the stationary queue for more than eight hours.

"We have heard from our freight forwarders that load shedding has affected the online customs clearance system on the South African border and hence we are having delays crossing into that country," said Mr Peter Manyaira.

Drivers were worried that some perishable goods will be wasted if the long delays continue.

Another driver, Mr Lloyd Musemwa said under normal circumstances they spend less than three hours on the Zimbabweans border to complete the customs clearance processes. There were also concerned that some transporters could be fined R5 000 by South African authorities for spending longer than necessary in their border.

"Ideally, we should spend less than two hours at the South African border and when you exceed these hours you are fined R5 000. This is sad considering that the delays are not of our own making," said Mr Musemwa.

Mr Danmore Makope said the drivers were worried about the state of affairs at the border.

He said most of them were paid depending on the loads they transport and hence a delay in the movement of cargo will eat into their salaries. Most of the cargoes, he said, were in transit via South Africa to overseas markets.

The acting head of Zimbabwe Immigration at Beitbridge, Mr Trustworthy Manatsire said, "The delays are largely linked to the of electricity supply challenged which has affected operations on the other side of the border".

Under the current set up, Zimbabwe and South Africa uses the pre-clearance system to process cargo imports and exports.

This is a facility where goods are cleared and duties are paid before they reach a specific port of entry, where customs officials will only check for compliance issues.

In Zimbabwe the clearance is done at the Document Processing Centre (DPC) in Masvingo, Harare and Bulawayo before the trucks may travel to the various ports of entry and exit.

Zimborders Consortium's general manager, Mr Nqobile Ncube said, "We are actively engaging with all relevant agencies to mitigate and manage the situation. Unfortunately, extra-territorial factors outside our ambit are at play but we are engaging and keeping tabs through relevant liaisons".

The consortium is transforming the Beitbridge Border Post in a private public partnership (PPP) with the government at a cost of US$300 million.

It is also managing the infrastructure for 17 and a half years under a build operate and transfer initiative.

SARS spokesperson, Mr Siphithi Sibeko said yesterday that were having challenges with power supplies and delays in the delivery of diesel for their backup generator.

"I have just consulted with my colleagues-it looks like there was a matter of non-delivery of diesel yesterday but that has been sorted out," he said.

According to freight forwarders, delays in the movement of cargo were detrimental to their businesses.

"We get paid when goods are delivered and in cases like these where the flow through of cargo is delayed, the pavement for our services is affected as well," said a freight forwarder identified only as Mr Moyo.

Source - The Herald