By Nhau Mangirazi
Kariba, January 31, 2016 – Authorities in the resort town are battling to contain an increasing number of Zambian poachers who have invaded Zimbabwean shores of Lake Kariba to poach for kapenta fish.
The Zambians have also found willing partners in the vice from among underpaid workers employed by Zimbabwean fisheries who now connive with them to augment their wages.
Previously, workers’ salaries were pegged at $150 per month but due to poor business being experienced recently, employers now pay their workers a miserly 10 cents per kg of kapenta caught.
The payment format has knocked wages down, giving rise to the vice which is readily aided by better paying fish dealers from the neighbouring country.
Catches are subdued in the lake, it has emerged.
Generally, fishermen get quick money from Zambians who now encroach onto the Zimbabwean territory due to overfishing on their side.
Kapenta Workers Union secretary-general Gerald Chimurewo admitted that all was not well for their members who are now grappling with reduced salaries.
“What hurts us most is most of the fishermen check in for work early and spend almost 19 hours but are paid for seven hours.
“We are in town but our salaries are graded based of formats used for farm workers and the lifestyle here is too expensive,” said Chimurewo, who manages an organisation comprising 5 500 members.
Similarly, some businesses already in the trade have not been left out in the vice after they have found it tough to pay workers, service equipment as well as renew permits, pegged at $2 500 annually.
Security has generally been porous in the lake which is jointly owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Other stakeholders have blamed the illicit practice on continued government failure to stamp out corruption among officials who are in the habit of demanding kickbacks from poachers.
Kariba Residents and Incorporated Ratepayers Association chairman, Sam Mawawo blamed rampant fish poaching to poor remuneration offered to police and parks staff by government.
“The poor salary policy planning by the government has made kapenta fishermen vulnerable to such scandals and remain easy targets to stealing from their employers and selling to Zambian fishermen who pay them better money to sustain their families,‘’ said Mawawo.
Kariba Cooperative Association chairman Joshua Zvanyanya admitted that the cooperatives have gone down in Kariba due to high costs of permits required by national parks among other issues that are affecting their operations.
‘’The cash crunch is affecting everyone and most of our members are not formally employed and we are in distress,” he said.
“We are appealing to responsible authorities to consider us when financial disbursements are made to revive the economy through job creation.”
Local businessman and tourism consultant, Laiton Kandawire said poaching will only go if authorities took time to destroy illicit markets as well as arresting influential individuals sponsoring the practice.
“The fight must now be taken to the real poachers in the offices, not the runners in the bush,” he said.
“Fighting poaching requires destroying the markets and arresting the big wigs fuelling it.
“The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority should have a more meaningful presence in our communities and educate the masses.”