HARARE – The marginalised Tonga people in Binga have complained bitterly to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai about the stringent fishery regulations imposed by authorities, arguing that they overlooked the fact that their lives revolve around fishing in the Zambezi River.
This comes amid a considerable rush in the community to join the fisheries, driven by extremely high unemployment.
But authorities are stringently controlling access to fisheries through heavy licensing and tight restrictions on so-called fishing gear — rods, lines, floats, baits and tackles.
The Tongas have traditionally lived near the banks of the massive Zambezi River, which sustains their livelihoods.
The river is on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and includes Lake Kariba — one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world with a surface area of 5 350 square kilometres.
Currently, only gill-nets above a 100mm stretch mesh size are allowed and each fisherman may only use five.
There are at least 1 040 fishermen in action in 40 villages on the Zimbabwean side and the lakeshore of Lake Kariba is communally-owned.
Parts of the shoreline have been declared conservation areas where fishing is not allowed.
Authorities argue the stringent regulations are necessary because they control the amount of fish harvested, thereby preventing depletion of fish and the killing of young specimens.
The community’s leaders blasted the stringent fishery regulations saying they had hope in the forthcoming 2018 election and that they hoped the coalition of opposition parties would overthrow the Zanu PF culture of exclusion.
MDC presidential spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, said Tsvangirai assured the Tonga community that the new government would take seriously their concerns and usher in a new governance culture in full compliance with the Constitution.
“They gave thumbs up to the proposed alliance of opposition parties, expressing hope that the new government will deal with the interests and concerns of ethnic minorities, such as the Tonga people,” Tamborinyoka said.
“They had grievances over the lack of proper schools and hospitals, blaming Mugabe and Zanu PF of pursuing exclusive policies that sidelined other people and groups.”
Tsvangirai is on a tour of all the country’s provinces, listening to the concerns of the people and allowing them to input into the sculpting of the governance architecture of the mooted new government of 2018.
In the next two days, Tsvangirai will engage opinion and party leaders in Lupane and Hwange, according to Tamborinyoka.