Katima Mulilo — Fruit hawkers from the Zambezi Region are petitioning governement to address their plight after the agriculture ministry banned the transportation of mangoes from the region to other parts of the country last year.
The petitition is being channelled through the Zambezi regional governor's office. Last year, the agriculture ministry banned the transportation of fruit from the region fearing it may lead to an outbreak of Asian fruit fly.
"It was brought to the attention of the ministry that there are traders importing mango fruits from Zambia into Namibia through Wenela border post.
Such produce may introduce Fruit Fly (Bactorocera dorsalis) in the country, and may result in high losses and negatively affect export of locally produced fruits.
Namibia has fruit-free fly areas that need to be protected," the directive read. "As part of the ministry's efforts to implement mitigation measures and to reduce the spread on fruit fly, people will be required to obtain import permits from the plant health division for mangoes to be consumed within the region.
The imported mango fruits must be accompanied by a valid original import permit upon arrival at the border post and within the control points in the region."
However, fruit hawkers are of the opinion that there is no evidence of the outbreak of the fruit fly in the region, arguing government simply wants to cripple the local business in order to benefit the South African market.
The group is now petitionining government through governor Lawrence Sampofu. A petition was also created online and by yesterday afternoon it had attracted 400 signatures.
"There is no reported outbreak of fruit fly in the Zambezi Region, therefore mango fruits from region are clear from pests and diseases. Citizens from Zambezi want to enjoy their mango fruit harvest from their backyards and share mango fruits with friends and family around the country," read the online petition.
Last month, some fruit hawkers questioned the sense in clearing the mangoes at the border if they are only to be consumed in the Zambezi region.
"Why is Katima Mulilo always sidelined? It looks to me as if they want to benefit the South African market as their mangoes are all over the shops in Namibia, yet we are not allowed to sell our own local produced mangoes to other parts of the country," said one of the hawkers, Alfred Lutaka. Spokesperson of the agriculture ministry Jona Musheko urged residents to embrace the directive as according to him this was done in good faith. "We are not trying to discriminate anyone, it is for the safety of our market," he said.