Ministers clash over timber plantations

The minister of state for Manicaland province, Chris Mushohwe, has clashed with environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere over ways to address illegal invasions of timber plantations.


Mushohwe ordered that no arrests of illegal timber settlers should be made with immediate effect, while Kasukuwere said that all “illegal settlers are criminals who should be arrested”.

Kasukuwere made the bold declaration after timber producers appealed to him to intervene and save the once thriving timber sector, which is threatened by rampant invasions.

Timber producers informed Kasukuwere during a forestry indaba in the city that the sector had lost 8,000 hectares occupied by 1,536 illegal settlers.

“We will not allow anybody to allocate themselves land illegally,” the minister said. “Those days are over. If you didn’t get land when we were doing jambanja, you can’t jambanja now. If you do so, you are a criminal. We can’t let this industry be destroyed right under our nose.”

However, Mushohwe sang from a different hymnbook when he officiated at the provincial fire indaba last week.

He issued a stern warning against timber producers arresting illegal settlers and their chiefs over timber plantations invasions. He argued that such a scenario belittled the role of the chiefs, who reportedly lead the invasions.

He threatened unspecified action against forestry officers arresting traditional leaders.

“No timber producers should treat chiefs as children. Why embarrass chiefs in front of their people by arresting them when they have invaded your plantations. We have other ways of resolving disputes. This should stop. If forestry officers fail to comply, they will have to answer to me,” charged Mushohwe.

The timber sector, which stopped paying dividends to government in 2008, is estimated to be worth $100m a year when operating at full capacity.

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