Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau
At least 21 Zimbabwean fishermen have been arrested and seven kapenta rigs impounded in Lake Kariba waters for allegedly encroaching into the Zambian territory while fishing.
Although details of their arrest and whereabouts are still sketchy, the 21 reportedly appeared before a magistrate in Siavonga, Zambia, last week.
Zambian Police Services spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Munganga Chanda confirmed the development.
“The 21 appeared at Siavonga Magistrate Court on Wednesday last week. They have been charged with the following offences 1)failing to appear before an immigration officer when arriving in Zambia ,c/s 12(2) as read with sections 2(1) and Section 6 of the Immigration and Deportation Act No.18 of 2010 of the laws of Zambia.
2)fishing in fisheries management area without fishing licence c/s 27 of the Fisheries Act No.22 of 2011 of the laws of Zambia,” said Asst Comm Chanda.
She said the names of the suspects were availed to the Zimbabwean authorities but no comment could be obtained from the said officials.
They were all remanded in custody to Thursday for plea recording.
The fishermen were arrested on the night of March 19, 2016 by Zambian police while they were fishing.
At least seven kapenta boats belonging to Lake Fresh Fisheries and two others were impounded.
The incident occurred at Musampakaruma Islands at around 11pm.
They were allegedly accused of violating Zambia’s full moon mandatory shut down to which they highlighted that the Zimbabwean shut down falls on different dates.
It is then that they were force-marched into rig number KF326, belonging to Lake Fresh Fisheries at gunpoint.
They had their cellphones while their rigs were left with engines running, lights on and nets down while the other six rigs were towed from Zimbabwean waters the following morning.
Lake Fresh Fisheries spokesperson Mr Dave Webster said initially they were denied visiting rights to see the fishermen.
He said Zambian authorities were not cooperating when they were asked to provide GPS coordinates to prove that they were arrested on Zambian territory.
The fishermen and their representatives contend that they were fishing on Zimbabwean waters.
Mr Webster alleged that the arrests could have been motivated by a need to avenge the arrest of Zambian nationals accused of poaching in Zimbabwean waters.
“A delegation comprising our company representatives and other arms of Government was eventually allowed to talk to the arrested Zimbabweans. The fishermen confirmed that they had been fishing in Zimbabwean waters and that they were not shown any GPS coordinates,” he went further.
At least eight Zambians were arrested recently and two boats were impounded in Zimbabwean waters.
They are reportedly detained in squalid conditions.
Mashonaland West Minister of State Cde Faber Chidarikire said the matter was being handled by the relevant organs of Government.
Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwean Embassy were fruitless yesterday.