Minister of lands and natural resources Jean Kapata has warned individuals and entities encroaching on forest reserves to move out immediately or face the full force of the law.

And Kapata says timber export remain banned until more companies in the country invest in value addition.

Kapata said at a media briefing Monday, that individuals that were conducting activities on Forest Reserves without a permit or license issued by the Forestry Department were doing so against the provisions of the Forests Act of 2015.

“Government has observed with great concern that almost all the 473 Forest Reserves are encroached and people are conducting various activities within the protected forest areas. Settlements, cultivation and mining are some of the activities observed. All land in Forest Reserves shall be used for security of forest resources, conservation and protection of ecosystems, improved forest resource management and meeting the social, cultural and economic needs of the local community,” she said.

“I want to take this opportunity to warn all those individuals or entities that have encroached on Forest Reserves and are conducting various activities without a permit or license issued by the Forestry Department, that they are doing so against the provisions of the Forests Act of 2015. I therefore direct that such activities must immediately stop. All those who will ignore this directive will face the full force of the Law.”

Kapata further directed the director of Forestry to serve eviction notices to all perpetrators, adding that government would not compensate them.

“In this regard, I hereby direct the Director of Forestry to serve eviction notices to all those who have encroached on the Forest reserves to move out immediately. For those that are cultivating various crops, they should be directed to move out after harvesting their crops of the current growing season. This is a national issue. Regardless of political affiliation and status all must take heed of this timely warning as my ministry shall not spare anyone. I would like to add that government is not not going to compensate anybody for whatever infrastructure they have put in the forests,” Kapata said.

And Kapata said timber export remained banned.

“The issue of timber, let’s take out mukula. I don’t want to mention the word mukula. As a nation we feel that if value addition is given to our timber processing we will bring about economical benefit in terms of wealth creation as well as job creation. We are yet, as a department, to go into far east and entice. We want to see where the Zambian timber goes to so that we can entice our colleagues to come and open up factories,” she said.

“We have MFEZ that are being opened everywhere within the country. Let them come and invest in Zambia through these MFEZes that we have so that value addition is added to our timber. It’s not attainable that people export our timber and you yourself travel all the way to China and go and buy a table at a high cost. Why shouldn’t that table be made in this country? So for the timber we are not going to allow exports, not now. Until we are satisfied that we have companies that have come to open up more companies in Zambia. We have few companies in Zambia that are dealing with value addition but we want more. They are not enough.”

Kapata said citizens are the ones who mostly sold their land to foreigners.

“As for giving foreigners land, some of the foreigners that have land are those that have come through the Investment Act. But most of the land that foreigners have, it’s Zambians themselves that sell out. And the ministry has no control in that particular situation where a Zambian has his own land and decides to sell to a foreigner. As the ministry we cannot give out land to foreigners unless those that have been given under the Investment Act,” said Kapata.