WALVIS BAY: Disgruntled clearing agents on Monday took to the streets here demanding answers from the Ministry of Finance with regards to a ban prohibiting them from using third parties’ guarantees and bonds for moving transit goods.
About 40 unhappy clearing agents protesting at the customs and excise office here informed the Deputy Director of Customs and Excise, Yoolokeni Haihambo, that they want answers from the ministry about the ban.
The decision, which affects the movement of transit goods from the Namibia Port Authority (Namport) by the agents, came into effect on 24 July this year.
The clearing agents, most of them small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are complaining that obtaining their own guarantees and bonds is too expensive and would hamper their companies’ efforts to penetrate the market.
Haihambo on Monday said she sympathises with the affected clearing agents.
Those protesting were however not too happy when she suggested that one of the customers of the smaller companies, which is now struggling to operate since the ban came into effect, seek assistance from another clearing agent which can accommodate him.
Steven Damaseb from Chesi Investment questioned the Deputy Director’s sense of sympathy towards the clearing agents. “How can you say you have sympathy for us when you are referring my client to another company, and that in the presence of members of the public,” he stated.
Haihambo went on to say that she spoke to Bevan Simataa, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise at the Ministry of Finance, who at the time was in a meeting, but confirmed that the issue is being addressed and asked that the clearing agents be patient.
“You will have to wait until we receive an answer from the head office in Windhoek,” she said.
Last month, in a letter addressed to clearing agents, bonded warehouses and companies in Walvis Bay, Deputy Director of Trade Facilitation in the Ministry of Finance Hans Garoeb stated that the practice of using third parties poses a serious challenge to administration and controlling guarantees in the event of liabilities experienced by the third parties.
The letter further stated that guarantees and bonds may only be used by principals registered under the said guarantee or bond, meaning that permission should not be granted to other agents and companies to use such guarantees.
About 76 SMEs have been affected by this ban. Their work entails clearing any goods coming though Namport, and which are destined for land-locked countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which do not have ports.
Not happy with the response they received from Haihambo, the group of unhappy protesters marched to the Walvis Bay Urban Constituency offices to hand over a petition.
The spokesperson of the group, Lunomukomo Taanyanda handed over a petition to Walvis Bay Urban Constituency Councillor Hafeni Ndemula stating that their main fears are that the ministry’s decision will mean the loss of clients, and as a result the loss of thousands of Namibian dollars.
Taanyanda, who owns Oluvanda Clearing and Forwarding Close Corporation (OCFCC), last week told Nampa his company has been operational for two years and deals mostly with car consignments from countries such as the United Kingdom (UK). Before clearing the consignments, OCFCC has to declare the consignment at the Namport customs desk.
However, before they can fill in a customs’ declaration form to clear the transit goods, the goods need to be secured and this is where the company (OCFCC) requires the assistance of third parties as they (SMEs) experience problems when trying to obtain their own bonds and guarantees.
“We agents do not have enough collateral for bonds, which start at N.dollars 350 000, and now the ministry has stopped us from borrowing bonds from third parties,” he explained.
Taanyanda on Monday said the clearing agents were not informed about the ban in advance and said it came as a shock when their licences were suspended.
“The letter was written on 24 July, but we only received it on 31 July. In addition, we received the letter by chance from one of the other agents and not directly from the Ministry of Finance,” he explained.
Ndemula said he would hand over the petition to the ministry and indicated that the matter will be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Approached for comment on Monday, Garoeb said the Customs and Excise office in Windhoek is still in the process of finalising the legal aspects of the statement, which would be released to the clearing agents and various media houses before the end of the day (Monday).