Zambia Reports (Lusaka)

27 July 2014

Zambia: Illegal Timber Industry Threatens Endangered Mukula Tree

Information has emerged that scores of Patriotic Front (PF) cadres in Eastern province have ganged up with Chinese nationals and they are invaded forests where they are indiscriminately cutting and exporting the soon to be extinct Mukula tree.

The Mukula tree is on high demand among the Chinese business community who are exporting the timber to the Far East where it is used in the production of gunstocks and other artifacts.

According to informants, the PF cadres have taken their politics to the forests by teaming up with their Chinese counterparts while ignoring government directives on the ban, cutting and exporting the timber. The sources say there is indisrminate cutting of trees and the people involved where doing it with a lot of impunity.

"These PF cadres are insisting that it is their time to eat. So they have teamed up with the Chinese who have the money. It is like the Chinese are also feeling they have a form of insurance from any law following the recent remark by President Sata that anyone who wanted to 'kill the Chinese,' should 'kill him first.' That statement has sent the Chinese on rampage here and the forests are under siege. The Mukula tree will soon become extinct if this is not stopped," said local businessman Menyani Taundi, who is based at Mwami border in Chipata.

Taundi said PF cadres must be stopped because they were abusing local resources without regard for future generations. He said people living now must not deplete all the natural resources, but also consider the future because Zambia could be a desert if the current trend was not stopped.

"The Chinese are only interested in making money and then they will go to other countries when they finish our timber here. The government has to stop this abuse at once. The PF cadres are acting like very hungry people because their insatiable appetite for money from the Chinese is alarming," he said.

Last week, the Forestry Department in Eastern Province nabbed a Chinese national and gave him five days to produce authentic documentation for the timber he was attempting to export through Malawi.

But Taundi has questioned the decision by the Forestry Department arguing that this government wing was acting as though there was no ban on the export of timber in Zambia.

The Chinese national, whose names are Tom Chi was found with over 3,864 logs of the Mukula tree.

Recently, trucks laden with logs of the Mukula tree were impounded in different locations across Zambia because cutting of the tree had been banned.

Some names of people in business such as Former Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba were mentioned to be among the people in the hauling of timber from Zambia.

But Lands and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister Mwansa Kapeya said the government intensified patrols and operations in areas where the illegal cutting down of Mukula tree was rife.

He warned foreign nationals involved in the cutting and exporting of the Mukula tree that they risked going to jail and could be deported from Zambia.

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