Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
A Bill to legitimise the National Ports Authority that will be tasked with running all the country’s entry and exit points under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development is now at drafting stage, a Cabinet minister has said. In an interview on the sidelines of President Mugabe’s 93rd birthday in Matobo over the weekend, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Dr Joram Gumbo, said the process was at an advanced stage.
He said Cabinet had already approved the decision to set up the agency and that the Attorney -General’s Office was now busy drafting the Bill.
Dr Gumbo said such a port authority will deal with operations, administrative, security and health, among other issues.
“The authority will be an independent legislative body dealing specifically with issues regarding the operations at our borders and not bogged down by technical issues,” he said.
“It is very critical that we make our ports of entry user friendly for regional and international trade.
“The Attorney-General’s Office is now drafting the law to legitimise such an authority and we are very happy with the progress on the ground.”
Dr Gumbo said when the AG’s Office was done with drafting, the Bill would be tabled before Cabinet for further action.
He said under the new order, the National Ports Authority will have a board made up of various stakeholders from different ministries to run the affairs at border posts, with his ministry playing a supervisory role.
Dr Gumbo bemoaned the current status quo at the country’s ports of entry where there is no lead agency to run the affairs.
Some of the stakeholders at the borders include the Department of Immigration, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), police, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Environmental Management Authority, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, Transport and Infrastructure Development, Veterinary Services, Agriculture and a private security company.
South Africa has a similar agency which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Some of the delays and inefficiency in some departments at the country’s ports of entry are a result of lack of monitoring and accountability and with the coming in of the National Ports Authority, service delivery is bound to improve.
Congestion has also become the order of the day at most ports, especially at Beitbridge, with travellers and importers pointing fingers at the stakeholders, chief among them Zimra.
Zimra says some of the delays are a result of human resource shortages.
The shortage of manpower has also been blamed for giving leeway to some border officials who demand money to expedite services to travellers and importers.