The Zambia Association of Timber and Forestry Based Industries (ZATFI) says statements made by Minister of Lands Jean Kapata concerning the timber industry when she appeared on ZNBC’s government forum recently are misleading.
And ZATFI has petitioned government to investigate why the Ministry of Finance permitted the Ministry of Lands to divert funds from the Mukula sale to the ‘defunct’ Kawambwa tea company without first going through control 99 account.
According to a statement issued yesterday by ZATFI secretary general Kalowa Mooto, Kapata was contradicting herself by saying that traditional leaders had been involved in the illegal trading of Mukula when in July 2017, she announced that government had banned harvesting, transportation, and trade in Mukula so as to reserve trees for the future generations.
“Honourable Jean Kapata, we as ZATFI do find the statements you issued on ZNBC’s government forum concerning the timber industry to be willfully misleading and very unfortunate. We expected you to honourably be honest with yourself and the nation at large. We are, in fact, even wondering if you did seek professional advice before you made those statements. First of all honourable minister, you are on record saying some traditional leaders and some individuals who know the value of Mukula have been involved in the illegal trading of Mukula and this is what had prompted you to put a ban to the trade in Mukula. This statement was very misleading because, not so long ago in July 2017, you were again on record saying government had banned harvesting, transportation, and trade in Mukula because government wanted to reserve trees for the future generations. How can you, honourable minister, running such a very big and important ministry issue statements to mislead the public with impunity?” Mooto wondered
And Mooto also said that the minister had not clearly stated the names of the chiefs, individuals and associations that had been involved in the illegal trade of mukula.
“Minister, you have failed to mention the names of the traditional chiefs, individuals and associations that have been dealing in Mukula illegally. Since those you know have been dealing illegally, why have they not been arrested? It is just important that the public is made aware of such people who are involved in illegalities, and we would implore the investigative wings to swing in action and apprehend such people. As an association, our interest has always been to help our members who are the main victims of your government’s policy inconsistency. Your government, through the forestry department, advertised for concession licenses and credible Zambians, including traditional leaders, applied and went as far as borrowing from the banks to fulfil all the requirements as stipulated in the Forest Act No. 4 of 2015. These companies went further to procure machinery, and some even went as far as borrowing from the banks to fulfil all the requirements as stipulated in the Forest Act No. 4 of 2015,” Mooto recalled.
And Mooto stated that it was wrong for the minister to claim that illegalities in mukula deals had been curtailed by the coming in of the military and imposing a ban.
“You cannot at this time deliberately pretend that you do not know what’s going on. You are fully aware of authorised illegalities that are still going on, and is not the people you have mentioned in your statement that are perpetuating it. You are aware that the people who are now smuggling mukula out of the country are the ‘big fish’ and we are very sure you know them. The poor law-abiding Zambians that you keep blaming for the illegalities actually wanted to do trade openly, and that is why they acquired concession licenses so that government can easily monitor and regulate their operations. Government was also going to raise revenue from them through production and conveyance licenses as well as export duty. However, because of your illegal ban on exports meant to deliberately punish helpless yet law abiding Zambians in favour of a crooked few, your government is not raising any funds from these license holders that should have served the greater good of Zambia,” Mooto stated.
You have simply and proudly rendered licenses for law-abiding Zambians irrelevant and encouraged high levels of corruption in the timber trade by a connected few. And in your statement minister you made reference to high cost of mukula in China which was benefiting a few individuals and traditional leaders, but you have not told the nation the price at which ZAFFICO is selling the logs confiscated from licensed Zambians to their single sourced China clients. Honourable minister, you have proudly stated that ZAFFICO has been mandated to sell the illegally confiscated timber from our members to their single sourced Chinese clients because they once did the same in 2015. Minister, please note that, to date ZAFFICO has not given any account of how much the operation in 2015 had gone. The country has not been availed with the information on how much was raised and the details of the auction.”
Meanwhile, ZATFI has petitioned government to investigate how Ministry of Finance could have permitted the Ministry of Lands to divert funds from the Mukula sales to Kawambwa tea company without approval.
“Before the military was unleashed on our members, huge sums of money were drawn from the treasury for Mutengo operation, but we wonder how the honourable Minister of Finance can permit the honourable Minister of Lands to divert the funds from the Mukula sells to the defunct Kawambwa tea company without first going through control 99 account. Which law did the honourable minister of finance use? How will this money be audited?” asked Mooto.