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Lockdown reprieve for customs clearing agents

By Thupeyo Muleya

Government has revised lockdown regulations and classified customs clearing agents and freight forwarders operating inland and at the country’s ports of entry/exit as essential service providers in a move set to enhance regional and international trade facilitation.

Truck drivers at Beitbridge Border Post
Truck drivers at Beitbridge Border Post

Prior to the latest move, some freight forwarders had resorted to closing shop as early as 3pm to avoid confrontation with security agencies since there was no clear position regarding their operations.

As a result, the availability of a thin staff of the customs agents had started to affect the movement of cargo across the borders.

The latest changes are contained in Statutory Instrument 45 of 2021 (Public Health (Covid19), Prevention, Containment and Treatment (National Lockdown) (No 2) Amendment order 2021 (No 14).

“The (Public Health (Covid19), Prevention, Containment and Treatment (National Lockdown) (No 2) Amendment order 2020 published in Statutory Instrument No 200 of 2020 is amended in section to (interpretation of definition) in the definition of essential service by the insertion of the following paragraph…the work of a clearing agent as defined in the Customs and Excise Act (Chapter 23:02),” read part of the new regulations.

A Beitbridge-based freight forwarder, Mr Innocent Moyo said the latest move by the Government was commendable.

He said they had experienced serious challenges accessing the border post in the last few months because they were not recognised as essential workers.

“At the same time, we were expected to facilitate the movement of cargo on a 24-hour basis.

Commercial trucks were getting stuck at the border and causing congestion. The space at the border is already limited due to the ongoing construction works to modernise it. We applaud this move,” he said.

The Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe, (SFAAZ), chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Musariri said the new regulations were a result of a series of lobbying from various players in their sector. The Herald