Lands and Natural Resources Minister Jean Kapata says the Zambia Association of Timber and Forestry Based Industries is composed a bunch of politicians who are working with the opposition.

In an interview, Friday, Kapata also challenged the association to produce evidence that 5,000 mukula containers had been shipped to China since the ban was announced.

Last week ZATFB said it was aware that over 5,000 trucks of Mukula had been exported to China since the ban was announced.

ZATFB also charged that Kapata and the Forestry Department were trying to cover up criminal activities and the former 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,” stated Mooto.

“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.”

But Kapata charged that the association was working with the opposition.

She accused ZATFB of leaking sensitive information to the opposition.

“Let them bring evidence. You know, the Timber Association as far as Ministry of Lands is concerned we have [disowned them]. If personally me as Minister I have disowned them, reasons are simple; they took our documents and gave them to somebody who is the leader of the opposition. Everything about what goes on in the ministry. So until they retract what they have sent on the other side because they have become political, they are politicians. And therefore me as a minister who is a politician I will take them head-on as a politician. Let them give us evidence to that effect. It is as simple as that. We can’t be talking about things which are not there. Everyday you talk about things without substantiating whether they are true or not. Let them bring the evidence,” Kapata said.

Asked if it was true that she was trying to cover up the alleged criminal activities surrounding Mukula trade, Kapata denied the allegations.

“Those people are politicians. They are dealing with the opposition. They have written to opposition leaders, they have given them letters that between my office and them and ZAFFICO and the Department of Forestry. So I cannot comment, they are politicians, if they want me to comment, let them go and retrieve first of all those letters which they sent there. As far as I am concerned, the true figures that we have given, those are the true figures. So whatever they are talking about is neither here nor there, its a lie. Why should we hide? What is there to hide?” asked Kapata.