Tuesday, 10 November 2020

CHAOS AS CROSS BORDER BUSES DEFY CLEARANCE REGULATIONS

CHAOS continues to reign supreme at the Beitbridge Border Post as more cross-border buses continue to arrive without clearance from the Zimbabwe Embassy in South Africa.

Last week the embassy and border stakeholders agreed to revert to the lockdown clearance procedure for buses coming into Zimbabwe with returning residents.

This followed days of impasse between the transporters and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority staff at the border.

The revenue collector argued that it was not yet clearing travellers in buses under the current lockdown protocols prompting an intervention from other border agencies and the embassy.

Under the new order, all buses carrying returning residents to Zimbabwe are subject to clearance (by the embassy) two days before departure.

This is done to minimise the number of buses coming in daily and only five will be allowed passage per day.

However, the bus operators most of whom have been incurring losses since the beginning of the lockdown in April are defying the new order. It costs between R600 and R1 500 for a trip from Gauteng and the Cape provinces to Zimbabwe.

In some instances, the travellers pay an equal amount or more for the transportation of travellers’ luggage in cross-border buses.

“This is a peak period and our services are demand-driven. We can’t turn away travellers, because as far as we know the Government position is that Zimbabweans may return home without any hindrances.

“Further, the embassy clearing process takes time and we can’t afford to lose out on business,” said one transporter who preferred not to be named. In the last two days, buses have been piling up at the border with Zimra insisting on clearing buses with clearance from the embassy in South Africa.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Pretoria, Mr David Hamadziripi said he was yet to get a full appreciation of the situation obtaining at the border.

“We have had engagements with border authority mainly on the issue of facilitating a seamless movement of commercial cargo which we note has improved.

“We are yet to get a full appreciation on issues regarding the cross-border buses,” said the Ambassador.

The Coach and Bus Operators Association chief executive officer Mr Alex Kautsiro said he was on leave and had no full details on the border situation.

Before the lockdown started in April, a total of 200 buses were passing through Beitbridge Border Post daily and the number increased during peak periods.

Chronicle is reliably informed that some cross-border bus companies started advertising for the resumption of services prior to October 1 when South Africa re-opened 18 of its land borders to passenger traffic.

Zimbabwe will re-open, Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu, Forbes and Victoria Falls borders to passenger traffic starting with private motorists and pedestrians on December 1. Public transport will be re-introduced in the first quarter of next year.

It is also said the buses have been introduced to beat the current thrust by Zimra, where import duty is collected on most goods being shipped in the country in rigid trucks with a carrying capacity of between 8 and 20 tonnes.

Goods deemed as consolidated cargo are charged full import duty in the absence of their owners, while those travellers carrying their goods in person enjoy a travellers’ rebate in line with customs laws.

Zimra announced recently that it was collecting more revenue from the rigid trucks as compared to the pre-lockdown period where most goods were being imported under the travellers’ rebate facility. Chronicle

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