Second-hand vehicles congestion at Songwe border post

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Hundreds of imported second-hand vehicles are congested around the Songwe border post, a key link between Malawi and neighbouring Tanzania, due to failure by importers to clear them.

While some of the importers blame a centralised clearing system by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), several others have failed to clear their vehicles because of ignorance on a new system of calculating duty on the second hand vehicles, a development that left them shocked at learning how much duty they are to pay.

MRA started Automated System for Customs Data (Asycuda) earlier this year.

The development meant that clearance of all imported goods is approved in Blantyre before they are let in. This is a system that some importers blamed.

“Songwe border now is just like a receiving bay. I paid for my vehicle here but I could not proceed immediately because they told me I have to wait for my clearance approval to be done in Blantyre,” said one the importers found in the middle of yet-to-be-cleared vehicles last week.

But MRA spokesperson Steve Kapoloma said last week that while there were problems at the time the system was introduced, things improved drastically and the system has proven to be efficient.

He wondered why it is only vehicle importers that claim to have problems with the system.

“The problem was that the clearing agents were unable to use the Asycuda scan. They needed to scan the documents and send them electronically to Blantyre but instead they were calling on the office to ask for the progress of the clearance.

“We rectified that problem through training. It was a question of changing from talking to an individual to talking to a computer. It needed a bit of time, yes. But the issue of delays in clearing motor vehicles at Songwe or any other place is now history,” Kapoloma said.

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