Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says concession license holders who harvested Mukula trees before the ban was enforced are free to transport the logs now.

And Kampyongo says all the monies that will be realised from the sale of mukula by ZAFICO will be accounted for and all government accounts will be subjected to public scrutiny.

Speaking at a joint press briefing by the Ministry of Defence, Lands and Natural Resources, as well as Home Affairs, Kampyongo who is also acting Chief Government Spokesperson said the ban on the export of mukula was still in force.

But the minister who was flanked by Ministry of Defence Davies Chama and Lands Minister Jean Kapata, could not answer all the questions from journalists, saying ZAFFICO would answer the rest.

When asked to name the Chinese buyer of the Mukula logs and the money involved, Kampyongo said the market and cost of the logs would be determined by ZAFFICO.

“I want to address the issue of 21 trucks which were unlawfully intercepted at Shimabala by alleged PF and UPND Cadres. Of the 21 trucks which are at the centre of discussion, 10 trucks originated from Lusaka, and 11 from Mporokoso and Kasama districts. These were carrying logs that were illegally harvested, were confiscated and forfeited to the State. The State handed over the said logs to ZAFFICO to export on behalf of government. It is unfortunate that on 29th December, 2017, the trucks were intercepted on suspicion that they were carrying mukula logs belonging to senior government officials. The correct position is that ZAFFICo was issued with three export permits numbers, 175/2017, 178/2017 and 182/2017 by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources for the 21 trucks. This was done in order to salvage the economic value of the illegal logs other than letting the logs go to waste,” Kampyongo explained.

“I wish to categorically state that all proceeds of the sale are well accounted for and deposited in the government accounts as stipulated in the Financial Regulations and not in any individual’s accounts as alleged by some quarters of society. ZAFFICO sold and exported mukula logs in a similar manner in 2015. In addition, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has allowed concession license holders to move mukula logs that were legally harvested before the ban. This was decided after the request by the concessionaires to be allowed to haul their logs to safe houses. Government only allowed those concession license holders who had paid to harvest and harvested the mukula before the ban. They were allowed to transport the logs to respective warehouses for safe storage within a radius of 100km from the concession areas. Those who wish to transport the mukula timber beyond the 100km radius are required to process it into sawn timber, using a sawmill, before transporting it.”

He said concession license holders were free to transport the Mukula now, which they harvested before the ban was enforced.

“This exercise will be undertaken in a period of 30 days effective December 21, 2017 under close supervision of the district and provincial joint operations committees. The Forestry Department shall only issue forest produce conveyance permits to facilitate movements of mukula Timber and no new production permits will be issued to harvest mukula trees. Some sections of the media have published stories that are mixing up the mukula being exported by ZAFFICO, with the directive issued by government to allow concession license holders to move legally harvested mukula,” said Kampyongo.

“The movement of the legally harvested mukula by concession license holders has nothing to do with the mukula that ZAFFICO is exporting and the ban on harvesting and exporting of the mukula tree is still in force.”

But the Minister could not answer some of the questions below from journalists.

Questions: My Name is Chusa Sichone from Times of Zambia, I would like to find out what has happened to the suspected cadres who intercepted the trucks and the money which was suspected to have been stolen?

Kampyongo: The Zambia police has instituted investigations and those cadres or rather suspected cadres will be treated as suspected criminal fellows who engaged in Illegalities. those people and whatever they are suspected to have stolen in terms of money and other gadgets, will be treated just as we treat other people who commit such criminal activities. And so that is where we are and I am sure that in due course, you will be told the appropriate course of action that will be mated out on those that will be found wanting.

Question: My name is Sipilisiwe Ncube from News Diggers, I would like to find out on the status of the mukula trucks that were intercepted by cadres, have they been allowed to proceed to where they were destined?
Secondly, for the interest of the public, maybe could you kindly inform us the name of the Chinese company that has bought this mukula and at what cost because ZAFFICO yesterday issued a statement and said that they had identified China as the only market for the Mukula, so kindly update us. Which Chinese company has bought this Mukula if at all it is there and at what cost?

Kampyongo: What will happen is, the intercepted trucks will have to be released to ZAFFICO so that ZAFFICO can do what they were suppose to do because they have got the mandate and I know that ZAFFICO may not be here, but they are given a latitude to look at the market and decide where those logs can realise value for the benefit for the nation. We know that the ban of course has affected a number of greedy individuals who were making money from these activities without even contributing revenue to the state.
On the issue of how much was to be realised from the sale again is a matter that you may get from ZAFICO because they can give you the quantities that are available for them to export..

Question: My name is Chomba Musika from Zambia Daily Mail, honourable in your statement you mentioned that those youths impounded the trucks on suspicion that the said mukula belonged to government officials, what measures will government put in place to avoid such suspicions to ensure that the transportation of such logs is transparent?

Kampyongo: That is why I stated that the monies that will be realised from the sale of the mukula logs will be accounted for and all the public accounts, the government accounts must be out there for public scrutiny. They should be able to see how much we generated from the sale of mukula trees in this period of the year and this fiscal year. So all that will be documented and according to the financial regulations, all these monies should be then made known to the public.

Question: My name is Wells Chifunda from Prime TV. Honourable, I need just to take advantage of this event and ask about the military exercise which is ongoing on in town. We have seen the military cleaning up the streets and so on but one thing that has come up this morning is that people who are using [public] transports in these areas are also being asked to clean up. Where ever they are passing they are being told to help clean the streets, so I don’t know if those are directives that have come from government? Then I also want to get a way forward with regards to those trading makeshift stands that have been removed. I don’t know where those people are going to trade from because that’s where those people raise their money from?

Defence PS Sturdy Mwale: That question I think is misplaced in this forum. Like I said ‘let’s stick to the subject matter that we have come here for’. Obviously that answer will be provided but to provide that answer with the statement that Honourable minister has given, I think its wrongly placed.

Although present at the press conference, Kapata and Chama never said a word.