THE Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe has appealed to Government for more time to relocate their members’ offices at Forbes Border Post to pave way for road reconstruction, saying the two-week ultimatum they were given last week will disrupt business at the border.
In a letter addressed to the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Cde Mandi Chimene, dated June 6, 2017, the association — through its chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Musariri — said its members were not resisting eviction, but were asking for more time to do so. “SFAAZ represents organisations that deal directly with Zimra in the processing of commercial imports and exports across the borders of Zimbabwe. Some of our members are based at Forbes Border Post for the convenience of the work that they do with Zimra on a day-to-day basis in the movement of cargo across the border.
“It is with a heavy heart that the clearing agents were last week given a two-week ultimatum to bring down their offices at Forbes to make way for planned road construction. ‘‘The ultimatum was said to have been given by a team of Government officials. The team also comprised of official from your office and the Mutare Rural District Council. I visited your office and was referred to one of your directors after which I proceeded to the rural district offices, but did not find any reprieve from both offices,” he said.
Mr Musariri said a good number of agents renting offices at the border post had invested a lot into the structures. “The agents were paying rentals to the rural district council. This gave them some form of security of tenure in what turns out now to be an illegal occupation of those structures. Relocating to any other place will require immediate provision of electricity and internet connection to the offices. Compensation of the destruction of the current offices should also be considered. Constructions of new offices require time and other resources to do so.
‘‘Disruption of our services to exporters and importers needs to be avoided. Forbes Border Post is a major regional transit point and disruption of this service to neighbouring countries does not put Zimbabwe in good light regionally,” he said and added: “Giving clearing agents a two-week ultimatum is like summarily closing down the border to commercial traffic. Two weeks is definitely not enough notice in order to avoid disruption of service.”
Efforts to get a comment from Minister Chimene were fruitless at the time of going to Press as she was said to be in a meeting. MRDC chief executive officer, Mr Shepherd Chinaka, said the matter was beyond his jurisdiction.
He, however, said the local authority would assist the clearing agents to find an alternative location to set up their offices. “As council, we have a plan to build structures for them at a designated place. Currently they are working from an illegal area which is close to the road,” he said.