HARARE – At least 21 Zimbabwean fishermen are languishing in a Zambian remand prison after they were denied bail following their arrest on allegations of entering the neighbouring country without appearing before an immigration officer.
The 21, who were arrested on the 19th of last month, are also accused of fishing in Zambian waters without a permit, and have since pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The Siavonga Magistrates’ Court remanded all the suspects in custody and they will be back in court on April 14.
Their lawyer has since applied for their release on bail and the return of their confiscated fishing equipment.
The magistrate will make a ruling on the application on Thursday.
Lake Fresh director Dave Webster, whose 16 employees are part of the arrested group earlier stated that the fishermen were arrested at Musampakaruma Islands, Lake Kariba, where they were fishing at least two kilometres away from the Zimbabwean border with Zambia.
“During the night of 19th March 2016, Zambian police authorities unlawfully arrested 21 Zimbabwean kapenta fishermen while they were fishing in Zimbabwean territory on Lake Kariba. There were also seven kapenta boats confiscated. The confiscated rigs belong to Lake Fresh Fisheries…Mawere of Kalesh Investments… and… Mavhurere…,” Webster said.
He added, “The fishermen were approached by Zambian police, who demanded to know why they were violating Zambia’s full moon mandatory shutdown.
The fishermen explained that the Zimbabwean shutdown falls on different dates, the Zambian authorities then left,” he said.
He said that armed Zambian police officers reportedly later came back and bundled the fishermen in one rig before consfiscicating their cell phones.
Webster told the Daily News that his company’s representatives, together with Zimbabwean security officials visited the Siavonga Police in Zambia, where they were told the 21 fishermen had been arrested for fishing in Zambian waters.
He said the officials had problems in visiting the arrested fishermen as they were being denied access by the Zambian police.
“They (arrested fishermen) were also not supplied with water or food, until this was arranged by the company representatives.
“The Zimbabweans reported to us that one of the fishermen was in fact very ill. This was reported to the Zambian authorities,” he said.
He claimed this was an act of revenge by Zambian authorities after eight of their fishermen were arrested on the Zimbabwean side in December last year.