The Zambia Association of Timba and Forestry Based Industries says the association is aware that over 5,000 trucks of Mukula have been exported to China since the ban was announced.
And ZATFB says Lands Minister Jean Kapata and the Forestry Department are trying to cover up criminal activities.
In a statement, Wednesday, ZATFBI secretary general stated that Kapata had breached Forest Act No 4 of 2015 with impunity.
“With reference to Article 64 of Forest Act No.4 of 2015, the minister can only ban timber exports through a statutory instrument in extensive consultation with all stakeholders. To date, no statutory instrument in exists regarding the ban on the timber export. Therefore, the ban is not within the law and is null and void. The ban can therefore be interpreted as designed to only promote and cover the illegal activities by the privileged few while depriving the majority Zambians who are legally entitled to participate in this sector. The reason why we are saying so is because we have incriminating information leading to the beneficiaries,” Mooto stated.
“We do not believe in the ban on the export of Mukula and other timber species because every ban has proved to be a failure in the past as it is only exacerbates more illegalities. For instance, during the 2012 ban, there were more than 4,000 Mukula timber containers that landed in China from Zambia. As for the 2017 ban, are are aware that about 5,000 Mukula laden containers from Zambia have been exported to China.”
He stated that government did not follow the law when collecting timber from legal owners.
“Seizure and forfeiture of forest produce carried out by government falls under article 82 and 83 of the Forestry Department to cover up criminal activities.
According to the Forest Act No.4 of 2015 and the terms and conditions of timber concession licenses, the restriction on Mukula harvesting, transportation and trading is null and void as it is not backed by any SI,” Mooto stated.
“We are on firm ground to tell you that none of what the law states was followed when officers went into the forests and indiscriminately collected timber from both legal owners and illegal operators. We are also aware that people have been maimed and brutalised by people that are expected to protect them. This is unacceptable. In the same vein, as an association we have made several attempts to engage with government on the management of the timber industry and we have submitted several proposals which have been shelved and ignored.”
And Mooto state that the amnesty which government had extended to those who legally harvested timber before the ban was suspicious.
“The amnesty that is being instituted is being done suspiciously and does not conform to the terms and conditions of our timber concession licences. It is important to note that the association had requested that the association had requested for this exercise to be done way back in August of 2017 in order to prevent the timber from being burnt during the bush fires. It has taken government over five months to allow for this exercise to be conducted. We are now in the rain season when roads are completely impassable and the forests are dense. Government has also failed to tell us what will come next after government has hauled their timber. Hauling timber will not be done without cost implications and our members would want to not just haul the timber but sell it so that they can quickly realise their investments,” stated Mooto.
Mooto proposed that government follow the Forest Act to the later, engage stakeholders at all levels of policy formulation and implementation and appoint honorary officers to help in curbing illegal activities.
He also demanded that government refund concession holders whose Mukula logs were illegally confiscated by various agents like ZAFFICO and to immediately call for an indaba to resolve the impasse that has hit the timber fraternity.