By Tonderayi Matonho
ZIMBABWE is losing several millions of dollars annually through illegal logging, a senior official with the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe (FCZ) has said.
Bernard Chiparange, a senior manager with FCZ, said some of the plundered timber — mostly hardwood, was being sold in neighbouring countries.
Illegal logging, he said, was being fuelled by corrupt officials as well as weak legislation governing the timber industry.
“Illegal logging is rampant throughout the country and we are going to reinforce our laws to bring some semblance of sanity in the timber industry that is losing millions of dollars annually,” said Chiparange, who however could not give an exact figure of the amount of money being lost.
“We need to promote greater transparency, accountability and improve public confidence in how decisions on forests are made and implemented.”
He said the commission issues out at least 200 permits to timber players every year, but admitted there were loopholes that were being capitalised on by unscrupulous dealers in the industry.
During a recent visit to Nyanga, this writer witnessed numerous groups of people, who operate as syndicates, armed with chain saws, felling down exotic trees such as the wattle, cypress and indigenous acacia. “There are several groups here in this business and it is very lucrative,” said Pfungwa Sedze, a young man involved in the illegal logging.
He said he cuts down about 10 trees a week and pockets about US$150 a month, which he said was enough to sustain his family’s needs.
Safari operators in Nyanga said some of the timber was being used to cure tobacco or as firewood.
Illegal logging was also rampant in Matabelelend region, Gokwe’s Mapfungautsi Plateau and Chimanimani district.
Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ) director, Dr Willie Nduku, said unauthorised movement of forest resources had a dramatic and far-reaching impact at both the local and national level.
“Illegal logging destroys forests and damages the environment, disrupts communities, wildlife habitats and costs the government millions of dollars in lost revenue annually,” said Nduku.
He noted that the country had weak legislation to curb illegal logging.