MAPALO LUPUPA, Nakonde
OPERATIONS at Nakonde border yesterday ground to a halt after clearing agents engaged police in skirmishes in protest over the impending signing ofa trade agreement between Government and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
The clearing agents, who presented a petition to Nakonde district commissioner Kasase Mwale, argue that the signing of the trade agreement will put them out of business and result in job losses as the clearing of goods will allegedly be done only on the Tanzanian side of the border.
Nakonde district commissioner Kasase Mwale said in an interview yesterday that the border was partially closed after clearing agents staged a peaceful demonstration over the purported impending signing of a trade agreement between the government and COMESA.
Mr Mwale said the border was closed on the Zambian side.
â€œThe clearing agents want Government to consider not signing the deal as more than 800 agents in Nakonde will lose their jobs. However, police officers were in place to control the situation and the border has been re-opened,â€ he said.
Mr Mwale said business was temporarily suspended and over 1,000 trucks were marooned.
â€œThe cause of the dispute as contained in their petition is that vehicles or goods in transit through Zambia will be handled by Tanzanian staff. This means that Zambian agents would lose employment and will not have an income,â€ he said.
And Muchinga Province permanent secretary Bright Nundwe said Government is doing everything possible to control the protests at Nakonde border.
Mr Nundwe said the petition needs urgent attention and should be expeditiously dealt with.
â€œGovernment wants to put a long-term solution to avoid such situations from erupting. However, authorities closed the border when the situation got volatile,â€ he said.
Mr Nundwe said trucks were marooned but that security agencies are doing everything possible to control and normalise the situation.
â€œAuthorities are taking relevant steps so that such issues can be resolved. We know that people at the border cannot solve it by themselves.Â We need the permanent secretaries in the Ministries of Commerce, Trade and Industry and Finance, Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) Commissioner General and the entire management at the border to sort out the issue once and for all,â€ he said.
MAPALO LUPUPA, Nakonde