POLICE have launched a manhunt for suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) and Patriotic Front (PF) cadres for illegally intercepting 21 trucks laden with Mukula tree logs in Kafue area on December 29, 2017.
The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has, meanwhile, allowed concession licence holders to move Mukula logs that were legally harvested before the ban to safe warehouses within a 30-day period.
Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo said the suspected cadres' action was criminal thus they would be treated as such and those found wanting once the investigations were concluded would not be spared regardless of political affiliation.
Mr Kampyongo, who is acting Chief Government Spokesperson, said this during the question and answer session of a joint media briefing he held with Defence Minister Davies Chama as well as Lands and Natural Resources Minister Jean Kapata in Lusaka yesterday.
"The Zambia Police has instituted investigations and those suspected cadres will be treated as suspected criminal fellows who engaged in illegalities... Those people and whatever they were suspected to have stolen in terms of money and other gadgets will be treated just as we treat other people who commit such criminal activities," he said.
Mr Kampyongo said the nation would be informed on the appropriate course of action that the police would take on those found wanting once investigations were concluded.
Mr Kampyongo said as much as citizens' arrest was permitted, it was expected to be done within the confines of the law, in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies and so no ordinary member of the public must take the law into his or her own hands.
He warned that the Government would not allow lawlessness to take root in the country and that the application of law would not spare anyone.
Mr Kampyongo said the intercepted trucks would be handed back to the Zambia Forest and Forestry Industry Corporation (ZAFFICO) Limited for it to export the Mukula logs and the proceeds to be realised from the transaction would be for the benefit of the nation.
Mr Kampyongo said the Ministry of Lands issued ZAFFICO with three permits to export the Mukula logs aboard the 21 trucks.
The Government appointed ZAFFICO to export all the Mukula logs which were illegally harvested and forfeited to the State to prevent them from going to waste following the ban on the export of all types of timber species on June 13, 2017 and China is its export market.
Mr Kampyongo also said that concession license holders were allowed to haul the Mukula logs which were legally harvested before the ban came into effect to respective warehouses for safe storage within a 100 kilometres (km) radius from the concession areas.
He said those who wished to transport the Mukula timber beyond the 100 km radius were required to process it into sawn timber before ferrying it and that the exercise would be undertaken in a 30-day period effective December 21, 2017.
The Concession License holders' activities would be done under close supervision of the district and provincial joint operations committees and that the movement of the legally harvested Mukula logs in question had nothing to do with the one ZAFFICO was exporting.
The Forestry Department, Mr Kampyongo said, would only issue Forest Produce Conveyance Permits to facilitate movements of Mukula timber and that no new production permits would be issued to harvest Mukula trees.