Gov’t shuts Orange import for hawkers

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  • Batswana forced to dump Oranges at the boarder
  • Hawkers to sue Govt for losses

LETLHOGILE MPUANG

A group of local hawkers were forced to dump cars full of oranges imported from South Africa last week after they were informed by officials at the Tlokweng Boarder Post that government will not assist them in acquiring the phytosanitary certificate from the SA Ministry of Agriculture.
According to one of the hawkers Margret Moseki, they had traveled to the Brits area in the North West Province of South Africa last week to buy stock of oranges but upon arrival at the border, SA officials refused to issue them the phytosanitary certificate citing that their permits were incorrectly completed.
Despite having proof of payments to get the clearance certificates, the hawkers were refused assistance from the South African authorities. Having failed to get clearance and assistance in South Africa the hawkers sought help from the Botswana customs officials, but were once again refused entry as it was explained that they would not be cleared to get into the country without producing the phytosanitary certificate, forcing them to leave their stock and cars behind.
“When we were issued the permits to import the oranges, it was never specified as to which area we are suppose to buy from, we only learned at the border when coming back that there is some suspicion that there might be fruit fly in the area. But what is disturbing even more is that we are confident that the area has been cleared of any fruit flies, that is why our payments to purchase in that area was accepted. The procedure is that areas affected are listed and announced, and those areas are not allowed to accept or do any business by the SA ministry of Agriculture,” said Moseki.
“We thought maybe the ministry would assist us better in this matter, but we got nothing. We even approached the Permanent Secretary (PS) and he promised that he would look into our matter, but later told us that there was nothing they could do to force their South African counterparts to grant us the phytosanitary certificate,” she further explained.
Moseki concluded that they will be taking legal action against the ministry for their losses.
“Yes, we will be taking legal action against the ministry, we have already engaged a lawyer to look at it. Permits did not prescribe where we can buy and where we cannot buy. The question is why were we not advised upon being given the permits? We had borrowed money from friends and relatives and now our stocks of more than P20 000 will be dumped into some pit,” she ended.
Meanwhile a source at the same border post told The Botswana Gazette that customs officials working under the Ministry of Agriculture pleaded with their seniors to intervene in the matter, but they were reluctant to act. SA officials have on a number of occasions expressed their concerns over Botswana orange import permits.
“There are certain clauses that the SA government is not happy with regarding our permits. They have asked for to our ministry to look at them and improve them, but nothing has been done in that regard,” revealed the source.
Several attempts to contact the Minister of Agriculture Patrick Ralotsia were futile as his phone rang unanswered on Monday evening.