Disgruntled street vendors had their Christmas holiday spoiled on Friday after their goods were confiscated by Customs officials following a ‘Tomato Leaf Miner’ outbreak.
The vendors who operate from different parts of the country told The Voice that they spent thousands of Pula on their fruit and vegetables only for them to be confiscated at the border post.
Evelyn Tau who operates various stalls across the country, says she had bought vegetable bags worth P10 500 but went home empty handed. “I blame the Ministry of Agriculture. They authorised permits that we could go and buy the vegetables but upon our return we were told at the border that the veges were not allowed to cross into Botswana due to an outbreak of the vegetable worm,” she said.
The Martin’s Drift border post customs officials confiscated vegetables such as butternut, Mango, potatoes and others.
The angry vendors demanded compensation from the Ministry of Agriculture, with others claiming to have lost over P20 000 worth of vegetables.
“We sell to pay our bills and school fees. The Ministry of Agriculture should be ready to compensate us. They issued the permits so that we could go and buy the vegetables,” said one of the vendors, Obone Radithupa.
The frustrated vendors also said they were surprised they could not be allowed into the country with the vegetables yet some of their colleagues were allowed from different borders.
Senior Customs officer, Lesego Mathuka, confirmed the confiscation and that they only responded to the outbreak announcement.
She said the bags of potatoes are going to be destroyed. “We received the communique that there had been an outbreak of tomato leaf Miner,” she said and added that the permits that were issued to import tomatoes, potatoes, green pepper and egg-plant were revoked with immediate effect. Efforts to consult the Ministry of Agriculture about vendors compensation were futile, due to the public holidays.