Friday, December 19, 2008

(LUSAKATIMES) Traders and Fishermen refuse to pay govt increased fees in Mpulungu

Traders and Fishermen refuse to pay govt increased fees in Mpulungu
December 19, 2008

Fishing boats Mpulungu at Harbor

There was a near riot at Ngwenya market in Mpulungu yesterday after marketeers and traders defied fisheries officers from the fisheries department who attempted to begin implementing the new fisheries act, which has seen revised fisheries license fees and charges. The government have increased the licence fees for all commercial fishermen to K5 000 000 per fishing boat per year from the K300 000 they paid last year.

Meanwhile fishermen and traders in Mpulungu have maintained that they will not be part and parcel of the new fish charges and fees which they are being asked to pay by the fisheries department because they are too high and abnormal.

Fisheries officers who raided Ngwenya market in an effort to start implementing the revised fisheries act were met with force until they called for police officers who also failed to change the fishermen’s stance.

Fisheries officers were forced to retreat to their offices after they failed to negotiate with the uncompromising fishermen.

The fishermen and traders later ganged up and descended on the office of district commissioner Willie Simfukwe and demanded to seek audience with him to sort out the issue.

Addressing the irate fishermen, district commissioner Willie Simfukwe said the fisheries act is a statutory instrument which has been passed into law by parliament and can only be revised if it is sent back to the national assembly.

Simfukwe said the act was earlier suspended by former agriculture and cooperatives minister Sara sayifwanda after complaints from fishermen in Mpulungu who stated that the new fees in the act were unmanageable.

He said even president Rupiah Banda confirmed the suspension at a public rally in Mpulungu during the election campaigns to pave way for consultations before its implementation.

Simfukwe however said the fisheries department has ignored theses pronouncements and have gone ahead to implement the act in Mpulungu. He appealed to government through the permanent secretary in the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives to urgently address the issue saying it is painting a bad picture on government.

Simfukwe said the implementing of the act is a sensitive issue which can easily ignite chaos from the people in the area because most of them depend on fishing for their livelihood.

He however appealed to fishermen to be calm as the issue is being sorted out and warned the fishermen and traders against taking the law into their own hands.

But the irate traders and fishermen said they will not compromise with the fisheries department and pay the new fees because the fees are too high.

In an interview later, Ngwenya market committee chairman Webby Sichilima said it will be difficult to guarantee the safety of fisheries officers who will be sent to implement the act at the market because traders and fishermen at Ngwenya market are agitated.

Sichilima warned that the mood at Ngwenya market is currently tense and appealed to the relevant authorities to urgently find a lasting solution to the matter.

And some fisheries officers involved in revenue collection have voiced their concerns on the matter saying their work has become extremely difficult to carry out.

The officers who sort anonymity for fear of reprimand said they are no longer free to collect revenue from fish and kapenta on behalf of the government of the republic of Zambia because of the oppositions and threats they are encountering from the traders.

They complained that some traders are asking them to build their own markets and collect revenue from there because Ngwenya market belongs to the walamo committee under the senior chief Tafuna of the Lungu people of Mpulungu.

Last month, during a meeting held at the fisheries training centre in Mpulungu, fishermen and traders booed and jeered at fisheries officers who had traveled from Kasama to address them.

The meeting which was attended by over 60 fishermen, local councilors, marketers and traders and government officials from the fisheries department had to be cut short without reaching an agreement after some fishermen walked out and demanded to have an audience with the new agriculture and cooperatives minister and the director of fisheries claiming the officers from Kasama were too junior to address their plight.

Outlining the new fees then, principal fisheries technician john Mtonga told the fishermen that government had approved a new statutory instrument where fishing license fees and other charges have been revised.

Mtonga told the gathering that starting 16th may, 2008, all commercial fishermen in Mpulungu will be required to pay K5 000 000 per fishing boat per year from the K300 000 they paid last year.

In nsumbu, commercial fishermen will be charged K2, 499 000m per boat per year, an increment from the K300 000 per boat last year.

According to the revised fees, license fee for ring net boats have been apt from K100 000 to K1, 980 000 per boat per year.

Mtonga who told the fishermen that he was only carrying out his duty said people in the ornamental fishing business will be required to part away with K5 000 000m to obtain a license an increment from the K300 000 they spent to get one last year.

He said each ornamental fish caught from Lake Tanganyika for export to other countries will now cost K900 from K20.

For small fishing boats owned by peasant fishermen, the K11 000 they used to pay per boat every year has now been hiked to K99 800.

Mtonga said people using angling (Indobo), will now be charged K19 800 per month from K2000 last year.

He pointed out that the above fees among other charges took effect on 16th May, 2008, saying his job in Mpulungu was only to collect views and complaints which he was going to forward to the ministry in Lusaka for possible action.

But the angry fishermen, some talking on top of their voices, complained that the revised fees were too high and unjustified.


Categories: Headlines Print This Post



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home