Clearing agents mull protest march

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By Kefiloe Kajane

Clearing agents and traders have applied for a permit to protest at the Maseru Bridge after they held an illegal protest on Monday demanding clarity on the export coderequired by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

An export code is a document required and issued by SARS for purposes of exporting goods into South Africa.

Speaking to theReporter, one of the protestors who runs aclearing agency, ‘Masethathe Sethathe, said they have written a letter to the Lesotho customs management requesting them to resolve the matter with SARS, and they are still awaiting an answer. 

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“We have now requested a permit from the police and we are also planning to write a letter to the Lesotho parliament; maybe they will give us an answer or try to resolve the matter.

“We are not going to back down now; we will find a solution to this issue because we are not just fighting for us but we are fighting for our economy as a country as well,” she said.

This comes after traffic came to a standstill at the Maseru Borger Gate on Monday as import and export traders joined local clearing agents in protest at cross border restrictions imposed by South Africa.

The protestors blocked delivery trucks from entering and leaving the country. They complained, among others, of the fact that South African trucks enter Lesotho without any hassles while they are forced to endure tedious red tape to cross to South Africa.

“The South African authorities require us to be in possession of an export code. It takes up to two months to process.

“Even though we were told we can cross with ease if we produce proof of application, a South Africa Revenue Services official blatantly told us their plan is to reduce the number of Basotho doing business in South Africa,” shetold theReporter.

Sethathe said some their complaints to the customs are that they want consistency of requirements between SARS and the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) with regards to the declaration process as differences cause confusion to them and their clients. She said the differences also cause unnecessary penalties to them when documents are received by other departments that handle them.

She further said clearing agents should be allowed to use their customs code on the declaration for the traders who have references and unregistered once-off traders. 

“Our struggles started three weeks ago when we were hit with the export code and told we would be fined on the spot if we did not have it. 

“We are not against the regulations that SARS wants to enforce, but what angers us is the fact that they do not do things lawfully. We do have an export code in Lesotho that we normally use but now they want us to have a South African one. 

“Traders who have already applied and received case numbers of references, should be allowed cross the border and continue trading while waiting for their application to be approved as we know that’s what SARS regulations state.

“We want transporters to be allowed to use import/export codes for traders whom they are rendering services for, in the event where the trader has applied and is waiting for approval, references should be accepted,” she further said.