Clearing goods at Harare International Airport is a pain!


I had an experience I would rather forget. I had a a parcel sent from South Africa via courier. They were T-shirts that were to be sold at a show on Sunday afternoon. So they arrived Sunday morning and we had to clear them at the Aviation Ground Services (AGS) based at the airport.

Day 1 – Four days to clear goods at the Aviation Ground Services (AGS)

The courier had said we just arrive there and present our waybill number and then we get our goods and we will be done. Yeah right! Armed with my waybill number from the sender we arrive only to be told that we could not clear anything today because they only clear live animals and corpses on Sunday.

Before this experience I had never heard of AGS. I hope I never have to deal with them again! The friend who had driven me to the airport said it had taken him 4 days to clear an iPhone. He had assured me that I would definitely not get my goods today. So we left, with nothing and the deadline missed for Sunday afternoon.

Day 2 – Submission of documents at the Aviation Ground Services (AGS)

Monday morning we head off again to AGS. On arrival we are greeted by the security who asks what business we have. We tell him and he asks to see our IDs and the waybill document. We are asked to step out the vehicle and get scanned by the hand held scanner. The security officer searched our boot and then asked for our IDs. You will not get in without your ID.

During my experience I decided to document the whole process in point form so here goes;

– Present ID and subjected to a body search and the vehicle is searched
– You are given a pass to go in
– We get in and head to the front desk where we present the waybill number and they check on the system to see if they have it.
– They confirm it and you go to the warehouse to confirm that the consignment is actuality there
– At the warehouse there is a queue but its certainly not first come first served as we find out that some people are more important than others
– When we are eventually served and they confirm the parcel is there we head off to ZIMRA to calculate the duty.
– After describing the goods they determine that they are commercial items and we need to get an agent to clear them. All commercial goods have to be cleared by an agent.
– If they are personal items they work the duty for you.
– The agent charges $50 for his services
– Clothes pay 40% duty and an extra $3 per kg
– They also calculate 14% VAT including the courier amount
– So we handed everything to the agent – Invoices, waybill document, and we left

Day 3 – Systems always down at Aviation Ground Services (AGS)

– Agent spent the whole day clearing the goods
– At 2pm agent calls to inform us that everything has been done and we are just waiting to get a confirmation for the duty from ZIMRA so that we pay and get our goods, BUT the system is down. While I was there on the first day I had been told that the system is constantly down, resulting in delays.

These delays cost you up to $40 a day for storage, even though its not your fault.
– 14:45 Agent calls to inform me that the system is still down. I asked him what would happen if they closed today. He said we will have to pay for the extra storage! I am paying extra storage because my goods have been stored for an extra day and its their fault that they could not clear on time. He says ZIMRA and AGS work independently. I am like YEAH RIGHT DUDE – that has ‘working in cahoots’ written all over it!– And sure enough the system does not come up and they close.

Oh yeah they also count Sunday, a day which they do not clear goods so now I am paying for storage.
– Apparently the reason I get for the system going down in the afternoons is the high volume of clearance documents being uploaded by agents.

Day 4 – Collecting goods at Aviation Ground Services (AGS)

– We arrive at the gate and are not allowed in because we do not have a waybill document. We tell the guard the waybill is with the agent who is inside and he has called us to come and collect the goods. Besides yesterday we came in without that waybill document.

– So he says we have to call the agent to come through and collect us with the waybill.
– We comply and the agent comes through much to his frustration and we enter.
– This time we are not issued with passes as on the first and second day, though they were necessary on Monday
– The inconsistency was pathetic, it made me also realise that I am sure some people are able to clear their goods on Sunday as well, if the inconsistencies are consistent!

– Eventually we pay the required duty then we go back to the warehouse where your documents are always at the bottom because instead of the latest documents being put at the bottom they are put at the top.
– After waiting almost two hours observing what was going on we decide we had had enough then we confronted the officer who was selectively putting documents at the top.
– We eventually got our goods in good condition.
– We settled with the agent and left. At the gate we were searched and they checked our consignment and we got the green light.

Sure enough it was 4 days before we got our goods. Service in Zimbabwe is still lagging behind and as consumers we should really start speaking up and exposing these sham services and demand better service from our people. Come on!