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SA Customs strike affects borders

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By Hlengiwe Ndlovu - SWAZI OBSERVER-10-Sep-2009

LOCAL border posts, especially Oshoek are feeling the pinch of the strike action by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The strike began on Monday, but yesterday it took its toll.

Motorists, truck drivers and general users endured long hours in different parts of the day at the Oshoek border post as Sars officers were reportedly on a deliberate go slow strike. Those coming into the country were affected the same as those leaving because the South African customs officers simply did their work in a snailís pace.

A local customs officer said their colleagues told them that the go slow would be staged in different parts of the day, and peak hours where there is a high traffic of people proved to be a main target.

Yesterday afternoon at around 5:15 was one of the worst moments as motorists and truck drivers had to endure a long stay because transit papers were processed slowly. Frustrated users of the border post watched in distress as the indifferent SARS officers deliberately processed their papers slowly, and never seemed to care about the hurry. Contacted for comment, commissioner of customs and excise Thamsanqa Mpanza said Sars never informed the local customs and excise branch about this strike action and that it would affect local borders.

He said next time, it would be better if their South African counterparts alert them whenever there is a looming strike action for Swaziland customs to brace itself and make preparations in time for the effects of the strike. He decried the fact that nothing formal had been communicated to Swazi customs by Sars prior to the strike.

Meanwhile, South African media has reported that the strike resulted from trade unions representing workers being unhappy with a revised wage offer of between 9% and 11% with Sars officials. The trade unions are demanding an increase of 13%. Sizwe Pamla, spokesman for the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), said yesterday: "Members of Nehawu unanimously rejected the revised wage offer that was presented by the employer at the National Bargaining Forum at the weekend.

He said SARS is not prepared to budge and in the circumstances workers have withdrawn their labour and have officially gone on strike. Meanwhile, SARS spokesman Adrian Lackay said the wage settlement would be implemented to non-union members from Friday and would be applied retrospectively with effect from July 1.

He said SARS would strengthen its contingency measures to ensure that all its offices across the country remained functional. Further, he said SARS would not tolerate striking workers who attempted to blockade border posts or branch offices, and who attempted to prevent taxpayers and traders from conducting their business with SARS or intimidate non-striking colleagues. Additional information by Sapa

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