Barely three months after the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENT) issued a dried fish export ban for 12 months some dried fish stocks owned by Zambians and Batswana are still waiting to be transported to Zambia. At least 70 people, 40 which are Batswana and 30 Zambians have loads of dried fish waiting to be transported. The trucks cannot transport the fish stock to their destinations because the government has banned the dried fish export. This publication visited the scene in Maun and found some three trucks loaded with dried fish. Nyambe Nyambe, a fish trader from Zambia, regretted that it has been three months since they have loaded their fish stocks in their trucks. Nyambe said they cannot transport their stock because government has banned dried fish export. The response they get from the government is that they can only transport their fish after the ban has been lifted. He said they have tried to convince the government to allow them a waiver to transport their fish but all has been in vain. “This is what we get after waiting for three months for the waiver,” a frustrated Nyambe shows this reporter a copy of a rejection letter signed by the Deputy Permanent Secretary Felix Mongae. The letter reads that “unfortunately there will be no waivers considered while the statutory instrument banning export of fish is still valid”. Nyambe said the ban has financially affected his business. “It is not healthy for a business to stay three months without operating,” he fumed, adding that the decision has not only affected them as Zambians as there are more Batswana who have loaded fish stocks than Zambians.
Nyambe said they have overstayed in the houses they rent and they are now struggling to pay their dues. Another thing, he said, is that their days to stay in Botswana have expired and they have to travel 600 km to the Zambian border to renew their permit. “The worse thing is that we can’t extend our days in the immigration office in Maun as we are told to do that in Zambia and they are only extending with two weeks,” Nyambe protested. Nyambe said they bought the fish legitimately and have invested a lot of money that has benefited Batswana but the government is refusing to give them a waiver. “We are human. How can this government allow us to suffers so much as if we have stolen this fish,” an emotionally Nyambe charged. A Motswana fish trader, Mmanko Sekai said the ban of dried fish export has affected them as Batswana. Sekai said that the decision has affected Batswana more than the Zambians. This ban has affected us as Batswana, she decried, adding that whenever an individual tries to make a business the government interferes with their business. Sekai pleaded with the government to assist their Zambian counterparts so that they can cross with their fish stock. “These people are suffering here; they have no money and their health is at stake because the fish stocks have started to get damaged”. Sekai also as the government is refusing to grant them permission to pass; it must offload their stock and pay them 100 percent compensation their expenses incurred. “The government must also compensate us if indeed it is refusing to allow our goods to pass. This is not fair because we have invested our last money in this business,” she bemoaned. A truck driver, Calvin Kambole from Zambia also shared the same sentiments. “It has been more than four months since our truck has packed and for us we are paid according to the loads we have loaded,” he decried, adding that the situation is worse and pleaded with the government to assist them.
The General Manager of Lake Ngami Conservation Trust Galefele Maokeng said they are aware of the Zambian situation. Maokeng conceded that most of the fish stock was bought from the trust. Maokeng confirmed that they have been pleading with government to allow the Zambians to pass with their stock because they bought it before the ban was announced. Maokeng also pointed out that the government has also started burning the stock piles at the fish camps at Lake Ngami. “What the government did is unethical because these people came to us and bought these fish legally but now the government is punishing them by refusing to let them cross with their fish stock,” Maokeng moaned. He said it is terrible for the developing country like Botswana to destroy animal protein such as fish while they are lot of people out there who are facing hunger. The North West Wildlife Regional Officer Timmy Blackbeard said they have nothing to do as the law has been passed and it is up to the North West District Council bye-law to deal with it. The Bye-Law Officer Phemelo Matome refused to comment on the matter.