THERE is no moral ground for us to keep quiet when people with lawful documents to harvest Mukula are getting harassed in the name of ‘Operation Mutengo’ by the State, says Zambia National Association of Sawmillers (ZNAS).
Director of Forestry Ignatius Makumba has written to all Principal Forestry Officers across the country, directing them that there should be no harvesting, trading and conveyancing of Mukula.
…you are expected to inform the District Forest Officers not to issue production and conveyance permits until further notice,
read part of Makumba’s memorandum copied to Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata and the permanent secretary.
But in a statement, ZNAS president William Bwalya stated that while the association appreciated that the Operation Mutengo had good intention to mop up illegally harvested Mukula for resale through ZAFFICO to benefit the public especially in the revamping of Kawambwa Tea Company in Luapula Province, the suspension of harvesting, processing and trade of Mukula by lawful concession holders was unjust.
Forestry department had advertised to the public for people interested in harvesting of timber for processing and trade and had issued licences to members fitting the required conditions. But stopping people with valid concession licence from harvesting and processing and trading in Mukula is unjust. If people have paid for harvesting rights and money has reached control 99, it is unlawful to stop these people from harvesting, processing and conveyancing what they rightfully purchased,
He stated that entering the lawful concession areas with guns to confiscate what was rightfully harvested was tantamount to robbery.
Bwalya stated that Operation Mutengo had clear instruction to impound and confiscate illegally harvested Mukula and other timber species.
“We understand the pressure that is there to revamp the Kawambwa tea company but it can be morally justifying if funds can be raised from proceeds of selling illegally harvested timber. The forestry sector is crying and as leaders, even some of us do not have concessions to harvest Mukula directly, there is no moral ground for us to keep quiet when people with lawful documents to harvest Mukula get harassed in the name of Operation Mutengo,” Bwalya stated.
He stated that the government had encouraged the formation of sector associations to help develop industries and wondered why it had now become political to defend members’ business interests.
Bwalya stated that the government had just released K90,000.00 to the forestry department for its officers to go and explain technicalities on the ground to security and the public when the department was supposed to be the institution at the fore front of Operation Mutengo.
“Please let those with rights to harvest Mukula and other trees harvest without any harassment as there is no subsidiary legislation on the ground stopping all wood harvesting, processing and trade. What is happening in the sector though for good intention is rather unlawful,” stated Bwalya.