The Zambia Association of Timber and Forestry Based Industries (ZATFBI) says Minister of Lands Jean Kapata must address their concerns instead of accusing them of being politicians.

Recently, ZATFBI said it was aware that over 5,000 trucks of Mukula had been exported to China since the ban was announced and 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.

But Kapata accused the association of being composed of a bunch of politicians who are working with 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,” said Kapata.

But in a statement issued by Kakoma Kababa on behalf of ZATFBI secretary general, the association stood by their revelations and asked Kapata to address their concerns.

“As Zambia Association of Timber and Forestry Based Industries (ZATFBI), we stand by our statement issued to the media on the 10th of January, 2018. We now respond to the minister’s comments on our media statement.Firstly, we would like to state that we respect the office of the minister. Our earlier publication in the media was prompted by the failure by the minister to meet and dialogue with the association on various issues affecting the timber industry despite our many efforts. We were also prompted to respond publicly because of the Shimabala incidence which was vehemently defended by government with misleading statements,” stated Kababa.

“We would like to also state that we are a representative of all stakeholders in the timber industry as an association and we are registered as such. Therefore, we would like to make it clear that we are not a political party as the minister would like to mislead the public. Further, we refuse to be drawn into political rhetoric by the minister; instead we look forward to amicable dialogue with her to resolve the issues we raised in our earlier statement which she has neglected to address. In conclusion, we would like to stress that if the timber industry is to thrive and contribute to the economic development of the country, there is need for all stakeholders including government to adhere to the Forest Act as provided for under the laws of Zambia.”