The Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe (Sfaaz) has come out guns blazing, fighting in courier service provider DHL Zimbabwe’s corner and defending the controversial clearance fees which have set tongues wagging.
DHL recently hogged the limelight after its double-charging system was exposed by disgruntled Zimbabweans who felt cheated for paying clearance fees for items that would have been paid for by the sender.
Sfaaz board member Mr Kelvin Motsi defended the clearance fees arguing “all clearing agents charge for clearing goods on behalf of clients”. The defence comes hard on the heels of allegations that DHL Zimbabwe was externalising about US$250 000 per month to Deutsche Post DHL — the company’s headquarters in Germany — in network fees collected from the clearance and removal in transit fees.
DHL Zimbabwe angered customers after revelations that the company was charging US$50 for clearance of incoming dutiable shipments valued at US$51 to US$999 and US$120 for goods valued at US$1 000 and above.
Although DHL Zimbabwe failed to justify the clearance fees, Mr Motsi said any goods that have to be cleared with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) through Form 45 attract charges because clearing agents “would have done a lot of paper work and sometimes physical checks on the parcels”.
“If DHL or any other clearing agent don’t charge for clearing parcels, then they might as well close shop because they will be working for nothing; it will be a free service,” he argued.
“However, let me also state that any parcel that has no customs formality doesn’t involve clearance charges.”
Mr Motsi further stated that the clearance fees charged by DHL Zimbabwe were not peculiar to the company but all customs clearing agents who charge them in line with recommended fees set by Sfaaz.
Sfaaz recommends that the minimum charge for clearing goods should be US$50 while the maximum fee must not exceed US$1 500.
To prove that the clearance fees are not peculiar to DHL, Mr Motsi gave an example that Aviation Ground Services (AGS) at the Harare International Airport set import agent fees at US$69 per consignment for goods weighing between zero and 100 kilogrammes.
AGS’ special handling charge stands at US$30. “There is nothing out of the ordinary with the DHL charges; they are justifiable because the company is a clearing agent which will be doing work on behalf of a client.
“It’s easier to clear goods through a clearing agent than individuals to deal with Zimra.
“The clearance charges cover the agent’s transport, internet and physical inspection costs. The charges come up after the companies look at their overheads.
“Usually agents deal with Zimra to quantify and qualify the parcel; this justifies the clearance fees.
“If the public feel aggrieved or cheated, they can approach Sfaaz for redress, but let it be put clear that the charges are not meant to rip off Zimbabweans.
“The shipping costs paid by the sender don’t cover the clearance and customs duty charges,” he said.
The double-charging by DHL has since attracted the attention of the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Mr Webster Shamu, who has instituted an investigation into the issue.
For the past four weeks, Zimbabweans, both locally-based and those in the Diaspora, have voiced their concerns over perceived abuses by DHL Zimbabwe.
The scandal was reported to the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) — a Government investigating unit under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. The outcome of the investigation is yet to be made public.
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