Some civil society organisations have demanded answers on the exportation of illegally harvested muklua logs saying government’s explanations were not satisfying.

And the CSOs have challenged investigative wings to take interest in revelations by PF youths that senior government and State House officials are involved in the exportation of the endangered muklua.

In a statement signed by Centre for Trade Policy and Development executive director Isaac Mwaipopo, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction executive director Patrick Nshindano, CUTS International centre coordinator Chenai Mukumba and ActionAid country director Nalucha Ziba, Friday, the organisations observed that 2018 had began on a worrying note in terms of governance.

“We would like to begin by wishing all Zambian Citizens a prosperous 2018. As organisations, we are however sad to note the fact that this particular year has started off with very worrying signs in terms of the country’s governance, especially as it relates to transparency and accountability by those charged to manage our country’s resources,” the CSOs stated.

And the CSOs stated that they were saddened at the levels of impunity with which senior government officials were reported to be harvesting mukula.

“The recent allegations as exposed by the youths that some senior government and State House officials are involved in the harvesting and trading of the mukula tree must be investigated,” they stated.

“We demand answers to the following questions: 1. When was the auction sale for the seized mukula logs? 2. In whose names were the mukula logs being exported to China? 3. In whose accounts was the money from the mukula auction deposited?”

The CSOs asked government to stop making laws which only benefited politically exposed individuals.

“We would like to request the Minister to give us an update of the total number of jobs they have created from the time they initiated the ban? With regards to value addition can we have the names and numbers of local saw millers that have been empowered and benefited from the ban? We know that there are also genuine private sector players that have been crowded out of this business, we would like to know the total number of private sector business players that have been sent out of business as a result of this policy direction taken, especially that there are some who have been inconvenienced even after having authentic documentation,” they stated.

“It is not shocking that illegal harvesting and smuggling of the tree has continued despite these pronouncements and indeed these are some of the repercussions of extended ad hoc export bans, our biggest concern however is that the centre of this trade is politically exposed individuals who are benefiting from this business.”

CUTS International, CSPR, CTPD and ActionAid stated that it was regrettable that people from areas where the mukula tree was being harvested had not benefitted from the proceeds.

They also challenged ZAFFICO to publish revenue collected from exportation of mukula.

“With regards to revenue through taxation, we are afraid that due to the poor management of the sector, this may turn out to be a missed opportunity for the country to cash in and our local business players to raise some income. The recent incident has been disappointing and shameful; we have seen ZAFFICO and the Ministry of Defense coming to the defense of what has been perceived as illegal transactions. We are not 100 per cent convinced this is genuine defense but we strongly suspect that the institutins are trying to cover up. As a matter of transparency, ZAFFICO can publish its revenue from Mukula tree since it is the one mandated to dispose of or confiscate Mukula trees? With all that value in Mukula, the local people who have protected the Mukula tree for about 80 years before reaching full maturity are left with nothing apart from the consequences of deforestation,” stated the CSOs.

“We challenge government to come out clean on the mukula business. We further urge the government to avoid rhetoric and put in place measures that will benefit this country in terms of revenue for improved public service delivery. The country should not continue to make rules and regulations that are aimed at duping the masses while the few connected to the powers that be enrich themselves at the expense of the majority poor. Zambia is endowed with rich natural resources that if well managed would benefit the country and reduce the high poverty levels. We therefore appeal to President Edgar Lungu to immediately address this issue and stop the illegal trade.”