Moz civil unrest hits Zim car importers

Zimbabweans importing Japanese vehicles via Maputo in Mozambique are facing a torrid time. They spend more time waiting to be escorted by army personnel through the Muxungue-Save area than the journey takes.

Fighters of former Mozambican rebel movement Renamo in the Gorongosa Mountains.
Fighters of former Mozambican rebel movement Renamo in the Gorongosa Mountains.

Civil unrest in Sofala and Inhambane provinces followed the opposition Renamo’s pull-out from government last year. The neighbouring country’s Defence Ministry reported that 10 civilians were killed while 26 others were injured in rebel attacks last year.

The situation has put the lives of many people who use the route at risk.

Zimbabweans who use the Maputo port told The Zimbabwean that the situation had become very risky and expensive.

High risks

“Hired drivers charge exorbitant fees considering the high risks, so, I had to dodge work and come myself,” said Taurai Zvirege (33), a teacher from Mutare who recently bought a Toyota Vitz from Japan.

Shipping agencies at the port confirmed that business had plummeted since the beginning of the disturbances. They said the number of vehicles being imported via Maputo to Zimbabwe had dropped while those which had arrived were taking a long time to be collected.

“Business has gone down because of the war. Our yards are full of uncollected vehicles and we are finding it difficult to create space for cargo,” said Gorgia Ali Francisco, a car agent. “We are forced to charge $60 per day as storage fees.”

Military escort

He said they had resorted to providing Mozambican drivers who would meet their customers at Zimbabwe`s Forbes border post at a cost of $250 per trip. The owner of the car has to supply fuel at approximately $180 for 1,4 litre engine.

Zimbabweans are also supposed to pay $600 port charges in addition to duty charged by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).

Those who want to personally collect their vehicles at Maputo port would have to seek the assistance of a military escort from Muxungue to Save River a 150 km distance.

They would also part with extra expenses for accommodation and food.

Lodges are taking advantage of the situation and are charging an average of $40 a night.

It’s an 18- hour drive from Mutare to Maputo but travellers are spending two to three days on road. The distance between Mutare and Maputo is 1,400km. An alternative port is Dar Salaam in Tanzania which is over 2,800 from Harare.

Chris Hamandishe from Marondera said he spent a day and night at Muxungue military check point.

Situation bad

“I had to spent more money on food and accommodation since I was not prepared to sleep over. I arrived at Muxungue at 9am only to be told that I was leaving the following day at 11 am,” said Mawoyo.

There were queues of trucks, buses, and light vehicles stretching for over four kilometres. Munyaradzi Matambadzo (45), a truck driver said: “It’s risky to drive through Muxungue to Save alone. You risk your truck being torched by rebels.”

An army official who declined to be named confirmed that the situation was bad.

“We are doing everything possible to protect civilians and property,” he said.

The escorts do not guarantee total safety – they only minimise attacks. Locals warned Zimbabweans against transporting soldiers in their cars as they would expose themselves Renamo attacks.

While Zimbabweans are crying over expenses and fearing for their lives, local business people at Save and Muxungue business centre are enjoying brisk business by selling food and beer to travellers at military check points.

Nesto Augastino (44) said before the military checkpoint was established he used to raise less than $20 a day but now he raises over $150 on a good day.

“We are enjoying brisk business though we do not support the war,” said Augastino who operates a makeshift canteen.

A plate of rice and fish costs not less than $4 at a military check point.

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