Clearing agents have written to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) seeking its urgent intervention after a systems changeover caused serious delays in the clearance of cargo at the Beitbridge Border Post.
Zimra is switching to a computerised customs management system from a manual one and government says the tax collector was poorly prepared for the exercise.
The Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) said the changeover had resulted in chaos with cargo taking up to three days to be cleared.
“We are experiencing problems with the movement of entries after assessment,” SFAAZ pointed out in a recent email sent to Zimra and seen by NewsDay on Thursday.
“It is taking long to get documents released and stamped.
“If Zimra can address this challenge then this system will have worked well,” read the email.
“At Beitbridge in particular, consumption entries are taking on average three days to assess and then comes in the release and subsequent stamping bottleneck.
“Could Zimra please assist with shortening the period from registration to assessment and also that from assessment to getting documents at delivery?”
Joseph Musariri, the SFAAZ CEO, on Thursday said members of the association were not given enough notice ahead of the systems changeover. He said SFAAZ had been engaging Zimra over the weeks and were hopeful the situation would improve.
“The system that they want to introduce is very good, but at the moment they are working to perfect it,” Musariri said.
He could not quantify the revenue losses incurred by members of the association.
Industry and Trade minister Welshman Ncube blamed Zimra for failing to prepare for the systems changeover, saying the problems were being experienced at all the country’s border posts
“We have been dealing with this for the past two or so weeks,” Ncube.
“Zimra tried to install a clearance system whereby all borders would be linked by computer software known as Asycuda (Automated System for Customs Data) to Harare to move away from clearing cargo manually.
“It is not working properly. They are trying their best to perfect the system at the same time they have reverted to the manual way of doing things.”
He said teams from his ministry had visited Beitbridge and Chirundu where they were working with Zimra to address the problem.
“They have assured us that they are doing everything possible to get back to normal,” Ncube said.
Zimra demanded questions in writing on Thursday and its spokesperson Canisio Mudzimu said it could take up to 24 hours to respond to them.
Beitbridge is the biggest inland port in southern Africa.