Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Zim fishermen trial date set

Zim fishermen trial date set

Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau
The 21 Zimbabwean fishermen arrested recently by Zambian authorities on allegations of fishing illegally in Zambian waters in Lake Kariba have been remanded in custody to April 14 for trial.

They appeared before a Siavonga magistrate on allegations of not presenting themselves before an immigration officer and fishing in the Zambian half of Lake Kariba without a licence.

The fishermen are being charged for contravening the Zambian Immigration and Deportation Act and the Fisheries Act.

They denied the charges when they appeared before the magistrate and said they were fishing in Zimbabwean waters.

A Lusaka based lawyer has been engaged to represent the fishermen.

The lawyer made an application for bail and a release of seven fishing boats and rigs that were impounded when the fishermen were arrested.

Arguing for their release the lawyer said the 21 had already spent 13 days in custody when the maximum sentence for first offenders in such cases according to Zambian law is a fine.

The lawyer proposed bail equivalent to the fine threshold which, however, was turned down. On the release of the boats and rigs, the lawyer said the owners should have been notified immediately after they were impounded in accordance with Zambian law.

The fishermen were paired according to how they were in the impounded boats on the day of their arrest.

Lake Fresh Fisheries spokesperson, Mr Dave Webster, confirmed the latest development.

“The lawyer representing the 21 fishermen went to Siavonga yesterday (Wednesday) ahead of the court appearance). He was given the charge sheet with the immigration infringement on Wednesday and another charge of fishing without a licence on Friday,” said Mr Webster.

The matter was remanded to April 14 for trial.

The fishermen were arrested on the night of March 19, 2016 by Zambian police officers while they were fishing.

At least seven kapenta boats belonging to Lake Fresh Fisheries and two others were impounded.

The incident occurred at Msampakaruma Islands at around 11pm.

They were allegedly accused of violating Zambia’s full moon mandatory shut down to which they highlighted that the Zimbabwean shut down falls on different dates.

It is then that they were force marched into rig number KF326, belonging to Lake Fresh Fisheries at gunpoint.

They had their cellphones confiscated while their rigs were left with engines running, lights on and nets down while the other six rigs were towed from Zimbabwean waters the following morning.

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