Cross Border Bus Operators Turn To Omalayitsha To Stay Afloat

A coterie of cross border bus operators mainly those plying the South Africa and Zimbabwe routes have devised a new way of transporting goods between the two countries after being forced out of business by the closure of borders to general human traffic.

Most countries in SADC closed their borders to reduce the spread of Covid-19 related to unnecessary travel between March and April. Only commercial cargo is allowed through the borders. As a way of relieving pressure on Zimbabweans in South Africa, the country’s taxman, Zimra introduced the consolidated private imports cargo facility to enable people to be able to send food home.

Most Zimbabweans rely on their relatives in the diaspora for their general upkeep and most of them employ the services of Omalayitsha to send their food parcels. Before the lockdown, an average of 100 buses were accessing the country through Beitridge Border Post per day, making it possible for many people to travel and get groceries among other necessities south of the Limpopo River.

In the absence of the travelling public, the bus operators have resorted to couriering goods in small trucks for their traditional clients. Ideally, each truck carries goods for more than 100 families depending on the quantities and nature.

Those bus companies that don’t have their own (rigid) trucks are hiring them out for between R25 000 and R35 000 including additional trailers. In a media statement Thursday, Zimra said the former bus operators have now joined the Omalayitsha and have replaced the buses with rigid trucks.

“During the COVID-19 lock down ZIMRA introduced pre-clearance and pre-payment facilities for consolidated trucks (Omalayitsha) to facilitate importation of food and essential imports by private individuals using these transporters. This facility has always been available for commercial imports,” said Zimra.

The taxman said groceries – cooking oil, bath soaps, washing powder and flour formed the bulk of imports in rigid trucks. Zimra however said it was concerned with the abuse of the consolidated private cargo imports facility which has seen it employing a number of strategies to collect more revenue. According to the statement, the importers were in the habit of falsifying values and quantities of goods to underpay import duty forcing the organisation to get tough on defaulters.

“The huge number of false declarations as shown by the amount of revenue recoveries from each truck has resulted in 100% physical checks,” read the statement. “The risk management system in use in Customs provides for customs intervention for shipments that provide the most risk. We have noted that almost all shipments under this category have false declarations in terms of quantity and values.”

Zimra added that of Thursday, they conducted 159 searches on rigid trucks and received $6,1 million as additional import revenue. The organisation said it had opened up more search bays to sift through the imported goods considering that cargo is relatively increasing at the border with South Africa.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology