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Covid-19 Induced Border Delays Irk Cargo Drivers

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By Kenneth Matimaire

HAULEGE truck drivers are facing delay challenges along entry and exit points owing to a series of restrictive measures imposed by the government to curtail the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Zimbabwe has imposed various levels of lockdown since March last year.

The Shipping and Forwarding Agency Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) said though movement of commercial cargo trucks has not been interrupted by restriction measures, they have however, prolonged the clearance of goods along the borders.

SFAAZ further pointed out that truck drivers are still mandated to produce Covid-19 certificates, which are rejected in most cases thereby inconveniencing both drivers and movement of goods.

“Truck drivers need to produce negative test results. This process can cause delays as some of the negative test certificates are not acceptable to the authorities,” said SFAAZ chief executive officer Joseph Musariri.

Musariri warned that “congestion and delays at the border posts may result in the spread of the disease.”

He said there are several incidents were some drivers are quarantined after their negative test results were rejected by authorities.

SFAAZ said there is need to ensure that clearing agents are recognised at law to address some of the challenges affecting their constituency during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The association has an affiliation of 145 companies.

“In Zimbabwe clearing agents are not recognised (at law) as providing an essential service. As a result, some open (later) and close shop earlier than the border post operating hours,” said Musariri.

“The law should be amended to recognise clearing agents as offering an essential service. Alternatively, the authorities must give specific recognition to clearing agents to operate without hinderance,” he added.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) head corporate communications, Francis Chimanda said movement of commercial cargo trucks in transit decreased to 59% in 2020 from 64% in 2019 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is attributed to the bureaucratic restrictive measures imposed by the government along the borders as means to combat the spread of Covid-19, forcing foreign truckers to resort to alternative routes in neighbouring countries.

“Government must smoothen the clearing process along the borders. We are taking longer than anticipated and the unnecessary delays affect the way we work.

“The challenge is that we have a period we are given to return containers and if we exceed that time, we are charged a penalty of US$50 per day,” said Nyamajiwa Mhofu, a cross border truck driver to plies the Zimbabwe and Beira, Mozambique route.

However, incoming cargo went on to increase to 318,235 from 215,657 during the two comparative years.

Statistics availed by Zimra further indicated that the average commercial truck movement for 2020 stood at 26,520 trucks per month.