Blame game as wait continues for law on RHD heavy trucks

Local truckers have faulted Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) customs officials for not allowing in newly-bought Right Hand Drive (RHD) heavy trucks months after the cabinet agreed to lift the ban on such vehicles.
Ugandan-registered cargo trucks enter Rwanda at Gatuna border post. Local logistics industry players say they are being forced out of business by regional transporters; a situation that influenced the Cabinet decision to lift government ban on importation of RHD heavy trucks. File photo.
Ugandan-registered cargo trucks enter Rwanda at Gatuna border post. Local logistics industry players say they are being forced out of business by regional transporters; a situation that influenced the Cabinet decision to lift government ban on importation of RHD heavy trucks. File photo.

Local truckers have faulted Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) customs officials for not allowing in newly-bought Right Hand Drive (RHD) heavy trucks months after the cabinet agreed to lift the ban on such vehicles.

Rwanda does not allow importation of RHD vehicles but the cabinet on June 9 decided to remove the restriction on only long haul commercial trucks to help “increase competitiveness of Rwanda’s Road Freight Industry.”

The cabinet approved the strategy and naturally the responsible technocrats were to move and draft a new legislation that would replace the current presidential order.

Five months later, the new law is yet to be put in place.

Yet it appears local truckers are impatient, with the Private Sector Federation (PSF) now claiming that some 10 RHD heavy trucks are stuck at Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania after RRA declined to clear them to enter the country since the old law remains in force.

PSF officials and truckers reckon that the ban was effectively lifted the moment the cabinet agreed to lift the ban on RHD trucks, while government technocrats say the cabinet’s decision only paved the way for the drafting of a new legislation that would replace the current one, which normally takes a while.

Antoine Manzi, the director of advocacy at PSF, told Business Times that the adamancy by RRA not to allow the trucks in was contradicted the government’s directive.

“The decision was supposed to be effected immediately and that’s what was also communicated to us in a letter we received from government; so why are they saying that we must wait for the new law?” Manzi asked.

When Business Times requested for a copy of the said letter, it was instead given a copy of a cabinet briefing prepared by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and detailing various actions that seek to boost the competitiveness of the local road freight industry.

Manzi said continued ban means that truckers will continue registering their RHD trucks elsewhere in the region as has been the case before.

Abdoul Ndarubogoye, the vice-president of Rwanda Transporters Association, who revealed that he’s among those whose trucks are held up at Dar es Salaam, said the trucking industry was incurring losses. “Most of us acquired loans to import these trucks and this whole situation is hurting us very badly,” said

He said the businesses were unaware that the cabinet’s decision was just the beginning of a long bureaucratic process.

“It was government that lifted the ban after we had advocated for a friendlier legal regime, why are they then reneging on their decision when the trucks are already here?” Ndarubogoye asked.

However, Raphael Tugirumuremyi, the RRA deputy commissioner general in charge of customs, told Business Times that they had no legal basis to clear the RHD trucks.

“It should not look like we have refused to let the trucks in, RRA has no legal grounds on which to clear RHD trucks.”

“My advice to the truck owners is to wait for the new the law,” Tugirumuremyi said.

Peterson Mutabazi, the principal engineer in charge of transport at the Ministry of Infrastructure, also said that truckers will have to wait for the envisaged law, adding that they were in the process to draft a new presidential order to that effect.

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Tanzanian-registered cargo trucks enter Rwanda at Rusumo border post. (File)

The technical committee has not yet finalised reviewing the law and therefore government cannot instruct its agencies to implement a law that’s not in place yet, he said, rejecting claims that the government had communicated that the cabinet decision was to be implemented with immediate effect.

“Those (the truckers) who sought advice from us were told to wait until the new law is in place; and even those that went ahead to import without considering the realities on the ground will have to wait for the new legal framework,” he said last week.

He said the process to draft a new presidential order was going through routine procedures and there was no need for alarm.

“What the cabinet approved was the policy, in principle, which effectively gave concerned agencies a go-ahead to start on the drafting process for a new legislation, which also involves consulting with relevant stakeholders, including the Attorney General’s office,” he added.

Pressed further, Mutabazi said if everything goes according to plan they hope to finalise with the entire process before the end of the year.

The reforms, according to a Ministry of Trade and Industry document, would reduce Rwanda’s heavy dependence on foreign logistics service providers, and enable local trucking industry to capture a larger share of a growing market for road freight services estimated to be worth over $500 million.

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Government should take the matter as priority – business community

Jerome Nsabimana, a car dealer in Kigali

Government should move faster to implement the cabinet decision. The issue of right hand drive vehicles and trucks, in particular, should not be looked at as a private sector issue but a broader economic issue.

Eric Kayigamba, an importer

Creating unnecessary bureaucracy around such important policies will slow economic growth progress. If the idea was to try and create a competitive ground for the private sector but now you turn around and delay to implement the same decision, what are you doing?

Theobard Byaraje, a Kigali-based cargo truck owner

Government should instruct its implementing agencies to stop wasting time. Besides, we should also not look at only the trucks that have been bought, I know of other traders who have placed orders for RHD trucks, should they cancel the orders?

Gaspard Ngarambe, a trader in Kigali

We need to support and inspire those who want to join the transport business, so red tape should be discouraged. The government should treat the issue as a priority. We need to send the right message to the private sector.

Josephine Kabayiza, a clearing and forwarding consultant in Gikondo

It is very unfortunate that the trucks have been denied entry. This matter needs an urgent solution because such actions discourage investors. Besides, the owners are incurring a lot of losses in terms of time and money. My advice to the private sector is that they should work together and approach the matter with ‘one voice’ and, perhaps, go petition the President if they must.

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