New Era (Windhoek)

21 November 2012

Namibia: Timber Moratorium to Remain in Place

The moratorium on the timber trade in the Kavango, Caprivi and Ohangwena regions remains in place, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, said on Monday.

As of August 01, the issuance of forestry permits for sawn timber was temporarily suspended until further notice. The suspension came fast on the heels of media reports about the seemingly uncontrolled and illegal logging in the Kavango Region. According to Mutorwa, the ministry is looking at loopholes and recommendations that will be made known before Christmas.

"The moratorium is not to punish people but to assess the loopholes where illegal harvesting is taking place, especially in the Mukwe Constituency," the minister said at a media briefing.

What worries Mutorwa the most, is the fact that many of the illegal practice involves foreign syndicates. An arrest was made in August, but the suspect is out on bail. However, according to Mutorwa, he never appeared in court on the date he was scheduled to appear.

The incident worries the minister, because the culprit might have left the country, as it is not known why he never appeared in court.

A South African national, Trinivasen Naire (36) was recently arrested after he was found in possession of forestry products unlawfully harvested without a licence in the Mukwe Constituency, some 180 km east of Rundu.

According to some chiefs in the Kavango Region, despite many people getting arrested for illegal logging, there has been no prosecution of those arrested in connection with the illegal felling of trees.

Some forestry officials have also been blamed for complicity in the illegal harvesting.

Locals have called on the ministry to implement policies that will ensure that forest products such as timber leave the country as finished products to boost the country's revenue and at the same time to create employment.

The movement of forest products from neighboring countries such as Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia will be strictly monitored to ensure that these products are indeed sourced from outside Namibia, the ministry warned recently.

Another suggestion is also that the ministry comes up with a timber quota policy to enhance forest management in the country in light of the plunder of timber in the Kavango Region.

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