ZIMBABWE and Zambia have directed the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) to mediate in negotiations which would lead to a clear demarcation of the two countries’ border line on Lake Kariba’s waters, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
ZRA is a bi-national organisation mandated by the two countries to contribute to the economic, industrial, and social development by obtaining the greatest possible benefits from the natural advantages offered by the waters of the Zambezi River.
The two countries share a boundary on Lake Kariba, which is not clearly demarcated in many places because of the vastness of the 300-kilometre-long water body.
The lack of clear delimitation marks on the Lake’s waters has for decades led to the arrest of fishermen and other citizens for alleged transgression by the other.
But in spite of the clear weaknesses that Harare and Lusaka have failed to address in over six decades, courts in both countries have been heavy handed to those caught on the ‘wrong side of the law’.
Heavy penalties have been given to fishermen, most of whom would be working without intention to illegally cross the border.
However, the lake is also rife with armies of poachers taking advantage of the wide waters to kill animals and trade in ivory.
Fish poachers have also been arrested.
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But during a tour of the Zambezi Basin last week, officials confirmed that ZRA would mediate talks over the border crisis.
The ZRA-led negotiations will be part of the transboundary water management systems under the Protocol on Shared Watercourses in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the Zimbabwe Independent was told.
The protocol aims to foster closer cooperation among Sadc member States for the protection, management and use of shared watercourses in the region.
Speaking during the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) experiential tour of Lake Kariba in Siavonga, Zambia, ZRA chief executive officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa also shared insights into how the agency would tackle the problem.
“In some of our activities, ZRA has been asked by authorities in Zimbabwe and Zambia to assist in identifying border lines between the two countries,” Munodawafa said.
“We are working with the two countries’ surveyors general’s offices in re-affirming the borders along Lake Kariba so that they resolve disputes associated with each other’s citizens who are arrested along the dam,” he added.
Zimbabwe’s surveyor general Edwin Guvaza also confirmed that work on the programme was underway.
He said the two neighbouring countries were in the process of reaffirming their common international boundary, under the auspices of the African Union Border Programme.
“The working relationship between the two sister countries is cordial as far as the reaffirmation exercise of the common boundary is concerned and medium filum of the Zambezi River is the boundary between the two countries, except along segments where we do have islands featuring along the river, especially around the Victoria Falls segment and along Lake Kariba,” Guvaza said.
“In that regard, we have agreed with our counterparts to physically mark the boundary along Lake Kariba to make the boundary conspicuous, by establishing floating buoys fixed along the boundary. This will enhance fishing activities along the Lake in both countries, to guide fishermen as they carry out their activities on the lake.
“As it stands, it is difficult for the fishermen to identify where the boundary is, hence territorial encroachments are bound to happen.”
Lake Kariba is known for its big kapenta fishing industry, where over 1 000 rigs operate on both sides.
But the arrest of fishermen on both sides of the border have been the highlight of a problem that has taken decades to resolve.
The lake was completed during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1957. Arrested fisherman have been arraigned before the courts and jailed, accused of trespassing and poaching on either side of the boundary.
The boundary impasse between the two countries has also stretched up north, including territories and islands claimed by both Zimbabwe and Zambia in the Victoria Falls area.
Statistics on fish output have generally been poor since 2000, although production is estimated to be about 10 500 tonnes per year.
Zimbabwe is also reportedly engaged in a border demarcation row with Botswana over Kazungula, which has resulted in high-powered delegations from both countries holding an urgent meeting recently to resolve the impasse.
At the heart of the Zim dispute lies a border beacon code-named (BB842), which sources say Botswana is claiming that it is pegged “on a wrong position.”
In December last year, lands, agriculture, fisheries, water, and rural development minister Anxious Masuka met with Botswana’s land management, water, and sanitation services minister Kefentse Mzwinial as part of efforts to iron out the misunderstanding.