HARARE – The country’s busiest land border at Beitbridge is “saturated” after a computer system outage caused confusion and chaos, with thousands of passengers queuing for hours and trucks stuck at the border crossing between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The other border crossing, Zambia and Zimbabwe’s new one-stop border post, which also handles trucks, is also facing severe congestion. Trucks using the Chirundu post, about 136km south of Lusaka, are taking tens of hours to clear the post instead of few hours it used to take.
At Beitbridge Border Post, there were reported long lines of traffic — with pedestrians also tailing back for kilometres — with many returning home for Christmas holidays frustrated with the delays.
State tax agency, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), acknowledged that ports of entry had become extremely congested because of an IT failure.
Zimra said they have put in place interim interventions to ensure that the delays in clearances at ports of entry are minimised.
“Please be advised that Zimra is experiencing challenges with the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) world system. This has resulted in delays in clearance of traffic at the ports of entry,” the tax agency said in a statement.
“To mitigate against these challenges, Zimra has put in place interim interventions to ensure that the delays in clearances at ports of entry are minimised and that there is continuity in the clearance of travellers. This includes the implementation of measures in line with the authority’s business continuity plan to ensure clearance of travellers and commercial cargo.”
It said as part of the interim measures for the clearance of commercial cargo, where importers or clearing agents are able to show or prove that the required duties and taxes have been paid into the Zimra prepayment account, such consignments are being released on the basis of such proof.
“The interim measures are yielding positive results as delays in clearance of travellers and cargo continues to reduce significantly,” the statement said.
“Zimra sincerely apologises for the inconveniences that have been experienced by the importing and exporting public during this period.
“The authority is working tirelessly to ensure that the system stabilises. We kindly ask members of the public to bear with us as we try to resolve the challenges.”
Most Zimbabweans have escaped the hard life here into South Africa. Many of the estimated three million illegal Zimbabweans living in South Africa have found work as gardeners, maids and construction workers while professionals have landed jobs in their areas of expertise.
But they face growing intolerance in their adopted land, where there is a tendency to blame the newcomers for a recent spike in crime.