BY KENNETH MATIMAIRE
GOVERNMENT has identified a site to construct a new dry port to cater for commercial cargo between Zimbabwe and Mozambique via Forbes Border Port near Mutare.
The new site has been identified in the Marange area and measures 45 hectares.
It is expected to decongest Forbes/Machipanda Border Post shared with Mozambique.
The flow of commercial cargo is currently administered by the Mutare Dry Port run by the Beira headquartered General Motor Services (GMS).
GMS is a private company registered with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to offer space, physical inspection, customs clearance, container handling, bonded and general warehouse for imported cargo on behalf of the tax collector. However, the flow of commercial cargo at the border has been heavily influenced by activities in the port city of Beira in Mozambique.
This has been evidenced by the commissioning of the Beira port expansion project, which triggered a year-on-year average growth of 17% in cargo imported into the country since 2013, according to records from GMS.
Zimra is also on record saying that congestion at Forbes “has been creating operational challenges for us to provide efficient custom services to travelers and commercial cargo.”
Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said government seeks to bring order and efficiency at the border as it is the country’s gateway to the sea.
“This (Forbes Border Post) has become a critical border post as we go forward because Beira (Mozambique) has become such a major port… So Forbes Border Post becomes a very important transit point. A post that will really facilitate trade into Zimbabwe and rest of the region,” he said.
“So there is a need to understand how it works; what the challenges are, what needs to be done to improve efficiency. It’s clear that the border is now operating from five different sites, because of space constrains right here, you have had to have five storage spaces and quite clearly this is creating constrains for the efficiency of this border. That’s why we have now located a space out in the Marange area, which is a dry pot,” he said.
Prof Ncube said there was need to engage Mozambican authorities to introduce pre-clearance in sync with the system used by Zimra.
“I have also tried to understand other blockages, apart from space, in terms of processes and system between Zimbabwe and Mozambican. That is very important for both countries to really make sure that their systems talk to each other. There is need for pre-clearance on both sides of the border, in both countries. At the moment there is preclearance on the Zimbabwean side,” he said.
Similar measures are being taken across the country with a total of four new sites for the establishment of dry ports.
Apart from the new site in Marange meant to serve Mutare, others sites have been identified in Bulawayo, Masvingo and Makuti village in Mashonaland West province meant to decongest Chirundu Border Post.
The four sites will also double as export processing zones where citizens and non-citizens can procure goods as the country moves in to tap into the transit economy.
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.
However, Chimanda indicated that incoming cargo increased to 318 235 from 215 657 during the two comparative years.
Statistics further indicated that the average commercial truck movement for 2020 stood at 26 520 trucks per month.
The increased flow of cargo movement coupled with stringent border movements has further caused delays including congestion along the country’s border.
The Shipping and Forwarding Agency Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) said though government allowed movement of commercial cargo beyond borders, authorities are taking too long to clear the trucks.
“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.
He warned that “congestion and delays at the border posts may result in the spread of the virus.”
Musariri said there were several incidents where some drivers were quarantined after their negative test results were rejected by authorities.
SFAAZ said there was need to ensure that clearing agents were 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.