BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
SEVERAL Zimbabwean cargo transportation firms have collapsed under the weight of punitive taxes and fees charged by State agencies manning trunk roads, as hundreds of northbound foreign haulage trucks skirt the country daily to avoid the extortionist costs, businessdigest established last week.
Foreign firms have mapped out cheaper routes by picking their cargo through ports like Walvis Bay before heading into Sadc through Namibia and Botswana into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi and Zambia, according to the Transport Operators Association of Zimbabwe (Toaz).
But while international traffic has an option to avoid Zimbabwe’s bumpy and expensive highways, Toaz members have little choice.
“It would be noted from that a minimum of US$167,7 million is contributed to the fiscus by Toaz members alone, excluding confidential taxes paid by members such as Pay as You Earn, Value Added Tax and corporate taxes,” Cosmas Chandisarewa, a Toaz member told the Shipping & Freight Forwarders Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) annual general meeting in Harare.
“Research has shown that charges levied by Zimbabwean government agencies are by far higher than those charged within the region. This is having adverse effects on business including sending Zimbabwean transport operators into liquidation.
“Non-Zimbabwean transporters are circumventing the country in favour of other routes where they are not subjected to such harsh measures. The last thing Zimbabwe needs is for companies to cease operations particularly as our government pushes forward with Vision 2030,” Chandisarewa said.
“We inform you that international traders are rerouting their transit cargo to DRC, Malawi and Zambia through the ports of Walvis Bay in Namibia and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania as opposed to the ports of Beira in Mozambique and Durban in South Africa to avoid transiting through Zimbabwe as the charges effectively increased transit tranport costs, thereby increasing end user prices drastically,” he said.
Northbound traffic had their options boosted this year when Zambia and Botswana commissioned the US$2 billion Kazungula Border Post, helping cargo cross the Zambezi through the facility.
A list of fees released by Kazungula in May indicated that in some areas, Zimbabwean charges were three or four times higher than what the new bridge charges.
Toaz data showed that once cargo transporters set foot in Zimbabwe, they are asked to pay US$82 800 for the annual vehicle licensing fee before the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) starts milking them at the rate of US$10 for every 100 kilometres travelled.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) immediately demands US$0,45 per litre fuel duty, while the Vehicle Inspection Department demands US$50 for the annual inspection certificate of fitness.
This is in addition to a US$23 toll fee charged at Beitbridge Border Post per single entry per truck, with operators paying another US$20 road access fees per trip to the Government of Zimbabwe.
Other State agencies demanding taxes and fees include the Environmental Management Agency (Ema), which collects an annual US$60 for the hazardous chemicals permit, and Zimra demands a further US$30 per truck for every trip for its cargo tracking system.
The Central Vehicle Registry asks them to fork out US$150 per commercial vehicle per annum, while the Ministry of Transport requires US$125 to give transporters the road motor transportation annual service license.
Transporters also pay bilateral permits to Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa and Malawi costing US$150.
Chandisarewa said Toaz members also pay the Ministry of Agriculture plant quarantine farm fees, and remedies and veterinary services worth US$20 charged per truck load for all inputs in transit.
These are for loads carrying fertilisers, maize, wheat, sorghum, beans, cotton, sugar and others, while the Ministry of Health and Child Care demands what is called the Spot Health Fees, at US$25 per truck load carrying food stuffs.