Bottlenecks cause newsprint headaches


MAINTENANCE work on the South African Revenue Services (SARS) Interfront System has compounded delays in clearing newsprint from South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post forcing newspaper publishing companies to buy the product at a higher price from local paper merchants, it has been learnt.

Staff Reporter

South African agents facilitating the clearance of newsprint said trucks carrying newsprint like any other products coming from the neighbouring country would be delayed because of maintenance work on SARS systems which began last Saturday and was expected to take place every Saturday “until further notice”.

They said although this would affect all borders with South Africa, the effects would be acutely felt at Beitbridge Border Post, which is the busiest in the Southern African region.

“What this means is that from approximately 1330hrs to 1700hrs on Saturdays no one in South Africa will be able to submit and obtain a release on either a Bill of Entry Declaration or ACM manifest during these times,’’ said one of the South African clearing agents.

“This will affect every single exit or entry border post in South Africa. The potential consequences of this are going to be delays in delivery for cargo uplifted on a Friday in South Africa for delivery to Botswana and Namibia on a Monday morning. Delays in delivery to Zimbabwe must also please be anticipated – Beitbridge is our busiest border post and a shutdown of three and a half hours will most definitely have a knock-on effect.”

Already, in the past few months there have been delays in the delivery of newsprint from South Africa because of “bureaucracy” on the Zimbabwean side of the border and the Saturday maintenance work on the South African side was expected to worsen the situation.

The chief executive officer of Alpha Media Holdings – publishers of NewsDay, Standard and Independent newspapers — Raphael Khumalo in an interview said the developments would worsen bottlenecks in importing newsprint.

“We are already experiencing delays in importing newsprint, forcing us to buy from local paper merchants at a higher price and I don’t understand how they (paper merchants) are managing to beat the system,” Khumalo said.

“The delays on the Zimbabwean side of the border occur because it takes unnecessarily too long to inspect those big rolls of newsprint. In fact, there should be clearance done at the factory where the newsprint is loaded onto the trucks and avoid clearance delays at the border which again have to be done on both sides.

This is why, apart from the need to clear such bottlenecks in bringing in newsprint, calls for a one-stop border system should be looked into seriously.”

Khumalo said although newsprint cost $1 000 a tonne from South Africa, local paper merchants were selling it for as much as $1 207, 50 for the same quantity.
Repeated efforts to get comment from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority were fruitless as their public relations department had not responded to questions sent on Monday.

Incoming Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Supa Mandiwanzira yesterday told journalists at State House that one of his key priorities would be to ensure the creation of a vibrant newspaper industry.

“We also need to make sure that we have a vibrant newspaper industry to ensure that we deal with issues of importation of raw materials for the newspaper industry. As a country, we import 100% newsprint. Newsprint is very important not only for the newspaper industry, but for schools,” Mandiwanzira said.