OVER K 1.8 MILLION worth of fish bought by 30 Zambian cross-border traders into Botswana went to waste in March after the four truckload were not allowed to leave Botswana.
The four trucks, which were loaded with fresh fish coming from Botswana to Zambia, were not allowed to cross by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism Tsekhedi Khama, a young brother of Botswana’s Government President Khama.
A representative of 30 Zambian traders Gift Mutambo said the traders’ are appealing to the First Lady Easter Lungu and the vice President Inonge Wina to come to their aide over the fish that there destroyed as they have no means of looking after themselves and sending their children to school.
Ms Mutambo said while in Botswana the traders reported their predicament to the Zambian authorities in Botswana to the ambassador Patrick Tembo to help them persuade the Botswana Government to release their fish, but that did not workout.
“This was fresh fish when we bought on 26th March this year and this is now July. We were not surprised that we found it rotten and could not be sold even if it is given back to us now. But even in that condition, the Botswana government has refused to surrender the fish, having vowed that it will all be set on fire in Botswana,” Ms Mutambo narrated.
She said according to the traders, each truck carried about 30 bundles of fish worth about K15,000 per bundle. The four trucks were therefore carrying K 1.8 million of fresh fish.
Ms Mutambo said no reason was given to anyone of the 30 traders for impounding their fish.
“This has been a puzzle to us. Some of us have been buying fish from Botswana since 2011. There was nothing illegal we did. We bought the fish at Sitwa Market in the usual way and no one told us we were doing anything wrong. All of a sudden, we just heard that all our fish was impounded!” she said.
Ms Mutambo said she spent K20,00, Leah Mulenga also spent K20,000 and Sarah Mwila spent the same amount while Mr Nyambe spent K60,000.
Mr Tembo allegedly told some of the traders in Kazungula two weeks ago that he was unable to help them because Mr Khama had totally refused to release the fish and said he had exhausted all channels open to him to persuade the minister to allow the 30 Zambian traders cross the border back into Zambia with their fish, but to no avail.
He said two weeks ago, the Botswana Government had permitted the four truckloads of fish to cross into Zambia but as soon as Mr Khama learnt about it, he ordered Botswana customs and security officers to follow the trucks into Zambia and ensure they got back into Botswana.
Mr Tembo said when the fish re-entered Botswana, MrKhama allegedly gave orders to off-load all the four trucks and destroy the fish. The fish was off-loaded from the trucks last week but when checked by the traders, it was found to be completely rotten.
One trader, Mr Chongo of Lusaka had obtained a loan of K 100,000 all of which he used to buy the fish. Another trader, Charity Bwalya also got a loan of K 60,000 and used all the money to buy the fish. Others spent all their life savings on the fish.
“Others have spent since we worked very hard to acquire the monies we ended up spending money on this fish, now it is all gone and we have no one to help us even with a little to start all over again, we also call upon Hon Minister Kabanshi to also look into our plight because we just do not know what we are going to do” said Leah Mulenga.