Latest on SARS customs strike: Cargo keeps piling up at Beitbridge

TRANSPORTERS of commercial cargo continue to experience long delays at the Beitbridge Border Post, as the South African Revenue Services (SARS) customs officials continue with their protest over pay increase.

The revenue and customs officers are demanding a pay rise of 12 percent and their employer has offered to review the salaries by only 1,7 percent, a move that has resulted in a stalemate.

Since Monday last week, workers have been on a go slow and this has resulted in the slow movement of goods across South Africa’s borders.

By the end of the day yesterday, there were short but slow-moving queues of trucks within the border that were headed for South Africa.

To avert an imminent disaster, SARS has deployed senior managers who fall outside the collective bargaining forum to hold fort. However, the clearance process remains slow due to manpower shortages.

In a statement on Saturday, SARS said it had the situation under control.

“We would like to assure traders and travellers that we have put various contingency measures in place at land border posts to ensure minimal disruption during the current industrial action at SARS,” said the revenue collector.

“SARS will ensure that the following capabilities remain available throughout the duration of the industrial action: the processing of declarations will continue as normal; physical inspections of goods will continue as normal, with inspection finalisation being centralised and managed on a 24-hour basis.

“In addition to that, trade has been engaged about temporary measures instituted in relation to the authorisation and management of SADC certificates of origin for cargo transported across land borders.”

SARS said border operations will proceed as normal with the available staff supported by a number of officials deployed from its Head Office and other less busy regions.

The revenue authority also encouraged their clients to make use of alternative ports should a need arise.

“SARS endeavours to keep trade informed on any contingency planning relating to the strike and in order to ensure a seamless flow of trade.

“Please visit our website regularly for updates on any SARS branches or border posts that may be closed,” said the authority.

At its peak, the Beitbridge border post clears between 900 and 1 200 trucks per day. The Beitbridge Port of Entry links South Africa to other SADC countries including Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, DRC, Tanzania and Angola.

South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday that they were hopeful that SARS and its employees will find common ground in the interest of trade facilitation.

The minister visited Beitbridge to unveil the first batch of 200 Border Guards, which have been deployed to strengthen operations at the ports with Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

These fall under the newly constituted Border Management Authority, which is currently operating under the Home Affairs Ministry pending its weaning off in April next year.

“We have heard about the strike here and this has nothing to do with Home Affairs, but our hope is that the SARS commissioner and the employees will resolve the issues as soon as possible,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

Trucks drivers said they were spending almost half a day crossing into either country because of the ongoing strike in South Africa.

Under the current set up all commercial bills of entries are being processed electronically and these are processed at Harare, Masvingo, and Bulawayo Document Processing Centres (DPC). When these bills of entries are processed the trucks are then given the green light to the port of entry or exit where authorities there only check for conformity. – Chronicle

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