By Criswell Chisango
Kariba, November 27, 2013 – The government has condemned as unfit close to 200 fishing boats operating in Lake Kariba leaving scores of fishermen on the edges.
Over 100 workers are fighting against pending dismissal after launching a demonstrating against slavery salaries and poor working conditions in October.
Informed sources told Radio VOP that Lake Captain Lameck Chitenga, a government official from Lake Navigation Control condemned the fishing boats following a scrutiny which revealed that they were in a poor state of condition which breached health safety standards.
The fishing boats were declared unsafe during annual routine checks and will have to be subjected to a “fitness test” before being cleared to resume duty.
Captain Chitenga is a chief surveyor in the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development and is in charge of all inland water bodies covering Lake Kariba, Mutirikwi, Chivero, Mazvikadei and Darwendale among others.
There were 160 permits accounting to 385 units or boats (rigs) used for kapenta fishery issued by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority which falls under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.
Norbert Mapfumo, the chairperson of the Kapenta Producers Association confirmed the condemnation of some of the fishing boats.
“Captain Chitenga threw out nearly 75 percent of all boats operating in Kariba dam. Some were leaking thereby posing a danger to fishermen. For safety and professional approach, the Captain is right and fishermen are at fault. Personally, I had three of my boats condemned. I am busy repairing them’’ said Mapfumo.
Mapfumo said most operators are facing financial constraints although the majority benefitted from the government’s empowerment policy.
“The kapenta industry is no longer lucrative as we are leaving from hand to mouth. Some cannot afford to spare money to repair the boats and we were caught off guard during this operation but we have to adhere to the laws and meet required standards,” added Mapfumo.
Kapenta Workers Union deputy secretary-general Gerald Chimurewo expressed concern that most fishermen will be out of jobs owing to the government inspection.
“Most of our employers are indigenous businessmen whose boats were condemned. The majority of workers are regarded as casuals so they will be out of work until the boats are repaired and we are loosing out ahead of festive season,” said Chimurewo.
When contacted for comment by Radio VOP, Captain Chitenga refused to comment on the issue saying he is not authorised to speak to journalists.