Fish Poaching a new way of earning a living in Norton.

Capitalk Reporter |  8 months ago | top

Gone are the days when people used to desist from illegal deals to survive. What was once illegal has become legal. Surviving in a tattered economy is an uphill climb. With the Zimbabwean currency depreciating in value, many are retrenched as companies cannot pay for services rendered. Some have found solace in fish poaching.

Kingston Mashungu, also known as King by his mates, wakes up in the wee hours, the time when elephants wade, known as mashambanzou in Shona. He cycles 5km to Darwendale dam as the gravel stretch up and down past Damofalls residential stands. His eyes impaired as he stumbles, patriarchal obligation has made him accept his fate as he has to fend the family.

 Mashungu has braved the waters, checking on his nets after every three hours is not an easy task, but this is the only way to put food on the table. Norton industries cannot milk the whole populace. Some are not operating at their full capacity, while some, like Hunyani pulp and paper, completely shut down due to economic constraints.

Fish, though being a good relish that provides protein to the human body, has provided employment for many in and outside Norton, Mashungu being one of them.

Mashungu chose the fishing industry so as not to be a laughing stock among his peers, a pauper they would call him. His industry is not rosy; he works for more than twelve hours.

Checking and checking on his nets, cruising in the water with his inflated wheel tube, without any life-supporting jacket, he hopes to be lucky and catch more than 5 kg a day.

Indeed, Mashungu's job is a survival of the fittest. He has witnessed some of his mates drowning, battling for dear life, some ravaged by ruthless crocodiles.

Mashungu recalls some by their names, one by one. "Isaac and Wasu drowned on duty," Mashungu recalls.

Being reckless can cost one's life. Isaac and Wasu were called to the grave after the air in their inflated tubes depleted.

Despite his mates' answering their proverbial call earlier due to circumstances surrounding his job, Mashungu "the king" is one such person who has turned a blind eye to the prevailing situation. He is determined to give his family a life worth living.

" I have three kids who need $50 US each per term learning at Tariro junior school, while my rentals amount to $40 US," he said.

His share for the day depends on the weather. In the summer he gets more, while in the winter he gets less.

A mixture of salmonids, cylindricus, carpio, brim and base clad on his back, Mashungu thanks his ancestors who have protected him from the "Rangers", national park officers.

The latter and Mashungu have a cat and mouse relationship. He has failed to meet the stipulated requirements of the Zimbabwe National Parks. Mashungu neither has a fishing permit nor a license.

"$10.000 US is a lot of money, though it is paid quarterly, I would rather play hide and seek with them," he said.

It is no time to call cease fire until he reaches Katanga shopping center, "pa speed," his selling point in Norton. At this juncture, Norton town council is always on his neck for selling in undesignated areas. He is either fined or arrested.

This is where people from all walks of life converge to select the best fish of the day. Mashungu has not only provided employment for himself but for others within and outside Norton.

People from as far as Harare, Chitungwiza, Chegutu, and Kadoma flock in numbers to buy fish at wholesale prices ranging from $1.20 to $2.50 depending on the day.

Fish is a perishable product, hence to overcome losses, some of Mashungu's clients sell roasted fish.

This, however, increased the production of RAHA cooking oil in Norton.

Though fish poaching is illegal, it has provided a means for survival to people like Mashungu. This act is a thorn in the flesh for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks).

Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said fish poaching affects fish conservation and there is a high risk of overfishing since poachers use nets that catch the smallest before they reach maturity.

Farawo also said, "As of last year (2021), about 68 people had perished, engulfed by wild animals, but the majority by crocodiles because they would be fishing in undesignated areas."

Farawo said that Zimparks has made an effort to do awareness campaigns in different areas.

The battle rages on, between Zimparks and poachers, " fish bonga", a battle to protect fish within Zimbabwe's water bodies, while poachers seek a means to survive.

Is it indigence? That has caused Norton residents to be ignorant of those who have faced the wrath of the law because of such an illegal act.