Katima Mulilo-About 100 trucks which were among the approximately 400 haulage trucks seized in Zambia in January and February, and were recently cleared, yesterday left Zambia and entered Namibia via the Wenela border post, ending a long stand-off between Zambia and truck owners.
The release of the trucks followed President Hage Geingob’s intervention after he personally telephoned his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu to resolve the deadlock.
The trucks were held while the Zambian authorities verified permits and other relevant documentation, after they learnt that some companies were illegally harvesting mukula timber in Zambia, then transporting it illegally to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and then to Namibia, South Africa or Tanzania for possible export to China.
Some of the Namibian drivers who spoke to New Era on condition of anonymity, after they were advised not to speak to the media by the truck owners, narrated how they suffered while in Zambia.
“We were locked up in Zambia after we left Kasumbalesa, with no food, no water. When we asked them to give us food they told us your family should bring you food,” said one driver.
“When we asked them why we were locked up, they said nothing, they just grabbed their guns and escorted us to prison. They confiscated our property – I had to hide my phone so that I could talk to my family while in prison,” added another driver.
The four drivers who were locked up together further said it was after they communicated with the Namibian high commission in Lusaka that they were released from prison. However their journey was made tougher as they were held from checkpoint to checkpoint.
Things got even worse when they reached Kafue in Zambia, where they were made to park their trucks in the bush where no one could see them, and they spent over three months in the bush. “I got sick because we were being bitten by mosquitos. I had to go to hospital for a drip – for the two days I went there I had to pay 2500 kwacha for just a drip,” said another driver.
They were not willing to share more information, but they stated they were just happy to finally be reunited with their families and be back home.
“All I can say is that I am very glad I am out of that country and am now home,” said another driver. Some of the trucks that were impounded and destined for Namibia originate from companies registered in Zambia.
Speaking to New Era, Abdul Ezat of GSM group of companies could not hide his frustration that it took about five months for his 62 Zambian registered trucks to be cleared.
“I am very disappointed with how this entire process was handled – I lost a lot of money, I can’t even say how much but it is too much. I had to borrow money from other companies to pay the drivers. However, I would like to thank the Namibian government for the part they played in helping our trucks being released,” said Ezat.
Eugine Ndlovu, a Zambian national, was very disappointed he was subjected to harsh conditions in his own country.
“You know when you are detained in places where there are no proper facilities, water, toilets and stuff, it becomes hectic,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu added that his country and the entire SADC region at large should work hand in hand to ensure that incidences of this nature are never repeated.
“In as much that they wanted to curb the movement of trucks transporting mukula illegally, they made us suffer while we had all the necessary documents in place. It took them a lot of time. Next time the government and relevant authorities should learn to discharge duties in a way that will not make the other person suffer,” pleaded Ndlovu.
Another driver, a Zimbabwean national, also thanked President Geingob for the role he played in their release. He added that they followed the news through the internet while they were being detained.
“I haven’t seen my family in over five months as they are in Zimbabwe. I really suffered a lot. I would like to thank the Namibian president for his intervention as it has also helped us foreigners to get our trucks released,” he said.