Dar es Salaam. The saga involving the seizure of Tanzanian lorries outside the country took a new twist yesterday when drivers claimed that their employers do not assist them when they run into problems.
But, in a quick rejoinder, lorry owners say they always take care of their drivers - except in very few isolated cases.
The Tanzania Small and Medium Association Truck Owners (TSMTOA) chairman Chuki Shaban told The Citizen that most transporters, noting that there could possibly be a few individual transporters who might neglect them (drivers) due to some financial constraints.
The Tanzania Drivers Workers Union (TDWU) chairman, Mr Schubert Mbakizao, said yesterday that several of their colleagues were in a predicament after some of the 200 lorries they were driving were seized in Zambia ostensibly on claims of illegally transporting logs - but that their bosses had since failed to make concrete follow-ups on what was happening.
“As an association, we have tried our best to ensure that our colleagues are released but it has been to no avail. It is only earlier this week (Monday) that we contacted Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Zambia and we thank God that the embassy has promised to make a close follow-up,” he said.
“We ask transporters to immediately communicate with our colleagues so they can regain their freedom. Drivers went to the DRC and Zambia not to preach the word of God or to open a church. They were sent to deliver some goods by their bosses,” he said.
He asked the government to make a close follow-up on the matter.
According to him, drivers must always notify the association (TDWU) before transporting any cargo to and from Zambia. The association will then alert the Tanzanian High Commissioner in Zambia to assist with tracing to know if the logs do really come from the DRC or not before loading.
Last year, he said, a similar incident happened whereby some drivers stayed for six months in Zambia after some lorries were impounded in illegal logging claims.
“What is more disappointing is the fact that the drivers were brought home to Tanzania by members of their families who were not the reason why they found themselves there. Their employers did nothing to help,” he said.
The TSMTOA chairman admitted that it was possible that some drivers could have carried illegal logs. Sometimes drivers who transport cargo are also required to look for customers so that they load cargo when coming back home.
Ms Chuki explained that there are two scenarios here, the first one is that some transporters who have contracts with business people in Congo DRC are assured of loading cargo to and from but, transporters with no contracts they could only carry cargo to DR Congo and when coming back, drivers must look for agents to help to look for customers so that the lorries can carry cargo on their way back.