BY REX MPHISA
COMMERCIAL traffic arrivals from South Africa through Beitbridge continued trickling into the country as the strike by South African Revenue Services (Sars) workers and their affiliates entered its fifth day yesterday.
Although hardly noticeable because of a slump in imports through Beitbridge of late following the devaluation of the local currency coupled wth a newly introduced United States dollar duty regime on some goods, a few haulage trucks for both domestic market and in transit checked in at the border post.
“It’s not the same, there is reduced traffic and our colleagues in South Africa confirm there is skeleton staff manning the Sars offices,” a shipping agent at Beitbridge said on Sunday.
“There are queues of haulage vehicles on the South African side which are coming into Zimbabwe. They are not moving as fast as they would normally.”
The strike by Sars workers started on Thursday last week. Media reports yesterday suggested that the strike was still far from over because the two sides were far from reaching agreement.
Sars, which deployed mostly senior personnel to ports including Beitbridge, according to reports, was evidently not copping and had advised clients to make e-payments to avoid inconveniences.
A notice by the national acting chief customs officer, Beyers Theron advised clients of possible delays.
“The strike is expected to start on Thursday (March 28, 2019), and could involve a number of Sars employees at branch offices, including Customs officers at ports of entry,” Theron said.
Theron added that his office had put in place a contingency plan to address key areas of the business that could be affected by the strike action.
“While delays can unfortunately still be experienced at branches and ports of entry as a result of capacity constraints, Customs clients can assist Sars by, for example, not making cash payments at branches, but rather [electronic funds transfer] EFT payments during this time,” Theron said.
“Sars will keep its clients updated on the strike action using social media platforms, including its website, and will also advise clients on any service limitations that may be experienced,” he said.
Shipping agents at Beitbridge said although business was slow there was very little difference considering that clearing picks up towards the weekend.
The bulk of goods coming into the country by road from SA come through Beitbridge where both countries are currently upgrading their border posts for smoother and faster processing of travellers and goods.
Beitbridge also handles goods destined for other landlocked countries such as Malawi, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo who use SA ports.
Customs officers at Beitbridge said business was low.
“It’s trickling, we have some traffic arriving,” said Customs officers on the arrival side of border post.
Zimbabwe has introduced new duty regimes on some goods deemed locally available, which is now payable in US dollars or its equivalent in real time gross settlement dollars bond notes. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority on-line systems are, however, failing to pick up the new duty regime electronically.
Zimra has from last week failed to respond to questions relating to that failure.