Mining sector reports mounting customs backlogs as SARS battles technical issues
The Minerals Council SA has confirmed that there is a mounting backlog of exports at South Africa’s border posts and ports. Business Maverick understands that this stems from a meltdown in a new software system.
South Africa’s border posts and ports have become snarled because of technical issues related to a new software system introduced by the Customs division of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), hampering crucial exports and imports that are a key lifeline for a struggling economy.
“The Minerals Council is aware of the difficulties with the border posts and customs and is working with all our members in conjunction with government departments and SARS to expedite solutions,” Allan Seccombe, spokesman for the Minerals Council SA, the main industry body for South Africa’s mining sector, told Business Maverick.
Grain SA, the main industry body for South Africa’s grain industry, also confirmed to Business Maverick that it was aware of port congestion.
There have been reports on Twitter that no cargo has moved through the ports since Thursday last week and that container ships are backing up as a result.
SARS said in an emailed response to queries from Business Maverick that it would respond to our questions but had not done so by the time we went to press. A SARS spokesperson had not answered the phone or responded to our WhatsApp queries.
A source with knowledge of the matter told Business Maverick that SARS has introduced a software solution that has been problematic for most of the month and “it has now fallen into heap. Shipping companies are slowing down the vessels coming to South Africa to allow SARS to clear the software backlog.”
SARS said in a statement on 6 June that: “Land border posts are currently experiencing congestion and delays in relation to the cross-border processing of trucks and cargo, with the N4 corridor to Maputo through the Lebombo border post being the most affected.”
It has issued no further statements since on the issue.
On 19 June, the online industry news site Southern Africa’s Freight News reported that SARS systems had gone down and to “expect delays”.
“The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has confirmed via its Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Bulletin Board that it’s experiencing a systems failure. It includes both DPS and CPS — declaration and cargo processing systems,” the Freight News report said. “At 4:13pm the following update was received: ‘Good news, Sars both declaration and manifest are up and running and backlog’s being caught up.’”
It appears the system has gone down again and has had numerous problems during June.
This correspondent flew back to South Africa from Canada via the US on Sunday night and waited for over an hour to get through the passport queue at OR Tambo because the Home Affairs computer network was down. It is not clear if this is related to SARS’ technical issues as Home Affairs is widely regarded as a shambles anyway. (It took 45 minutes before anyone from Home Affairs alerted the swelling queue to the network problem.)
South African exports, which are a crucial source of hard currency and a support base for the rand, have been curtailed in recent years by the ongoing train smash that is Transnet. The Minerals Council estimates that Transnet’s woes in 2022 cost the sector an estimated R50-billion in lost exports. DM