Freight furore angers shippers

BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE - Cargo comprising various household goods sent by Zimbabweans in the UK to their relatives back home has been gathering dust for the past six months at the Manica Freight depot in Rugare and at Mediterranean Shipping Zimbabwe (MSZ) warehouse, also in Harare, because a couri

er company that acted as middleman has failed to pay clearing fees to the two freight companies.
The Zimbabwean exclusively reveals that the UK-based courier cartel, Protea (Europe) Limited, received thousands of Pounds from Zimbabweans working in the UK as handling fees for transporting their cargo to Harare.
Protea then subcontracted Manica Freight and MSZ to do the shipping of the goods. Protea officials allegedly now can’t pay the freight companies, who have vowed to hold on to the goods until all outstanding amounts have been paid.
Sibanda and Appuhamy, who are both based in London, have over the past weeks received a flurry of threats from angry Zimbabweans in the UK demanding an explanation for the prolonged delay in the delivery of their cargo.
An angry Zimbabwean woman reportedly slapped Appuhamy at the company’s head office, 64A Abbey Road, Northampton, UK, last week after failing to provide a satisfactory answer as to why cargo sent six months ago had not been delivered to her Harare home by now. The standard time for shipping cargo from the UK is six weeks.
Protea claims the goods have not been delivered because their clearing agent in Harare, Laurence Desmond, has not made efforts to collect the goods at Manica Freight and MSZ. But Desmond told The Zimbabwean in an interview in Harare on Tuesday that his hands were tied because Manica and MSZ would not release the goods before payment is made.
“There is nothing I can do until Protea settles the outstanding amounts in the UK,” Desmond said. He said Manica Freight and MSZ were insisting that they would not release the cargo until Protea made payment to the two freight companies’ head offices in the UK in Pounds. Desmond denied that he was an employee of Protea, insisting he had merely entered an agreement with the company to dispatch this batch of freight after receiving two containers of his personal cargo free of charge from the UK through the courier company.
While it was not possible to obtain official comment from Manica and MSZ because of “client confidentiality,” company sources confirmed there were 10 containers detained at Manica Freight over non-payment from Protea.
At MSZ, container number MSCU8192673, was held because Protea had failed to pay clearing fees.
An irate Zimbabwean based in London told The Zimbabwean in an interview that he had sent four big suitcases, six big boxes and one big parcel containing ironing boards weighing 325.7kgs through Protea in April but up to date the goods have not been delivered.
“These goods were collected at Luton on 26 April and the reference number is 575-11,” he said. “They have still not been delivered. I have followed up on this and I have been referred to a Mr Laurence who is supposed to be their clearing agent (in Harare). The last time I spoke to him he said that was too big for him I should contact UK.”
The livid customer said after confronting Protea in the UK about the delay, the company began dilly-dallying in correspondence, stating in a shocking U-Turn that Laurence was no longer the company’s agent.
In a letter seen by The Zimbabwean aimed at placating the restive customer, Appuhamy wrote: “Please note that Desmond Laurence is no longer our agent. We have reconsigned the shipment via MSC Ipswich UK to Ronwell Chitambira. Desmond Laurence was to get the containers but he has not showed up at Manica or MSC since the 10th of October.
The unconvinced customer said he had received several of these letters before from the company assuring him that delivery would be made soon but nothing had materialized to date.
Another Zimbabwean in the UK whose goods cannot be accounted for said: “It is very distressing that they can take hard-earned money from innocent Zimbabweans just like that and fail to deliver,” she fumed. “It is a clear fraudulent operation. As we well know, Zimbabweans, of all people, do not have money to throw away like that.”
She said they were instituting legal action against “this fraudulent institution.”
Appuhamy however denied from London that Protea had swindled anybody.
“We did not operate fraudulently under any circumstances,” Appuhamy insisted. “We have a contract to deliver and will do so. We can provide the list of all Zimbabweans totalling more than 1,300 for whom we have delivered the cargo for without any problems or complications since August 2006.”

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