MILE 30: The Mbunza Traditional Authority has unearthed large consignments of forest produce allegedly illegally harvested in the Mbunza communal area.
The 600 poles and 90 planks were confiscated at the villages of Mile 20, Mile 30, Mbeyo and Epingiro within the Mbunza Authority on Tuesday. All four villages are situated south of Rundu.
The illegal harvesting of timber appears to be on the increase in the region, as according to Mbunza Traditional Authority leader Chief Alfons Kaundu, three trucks enroute to Oshikango in the Ohangwena Region were spotted transporting planks.
Kaundu told Nampa on Tuesday that this illegal timber was discovered after he had received several complaints from community members about individuals who were cutting down trees without permits.
A man and a woman who were interrogated by the Mbunza Traditional Authority over the weekend admitted to having cut down trees without permission.
The forest products were then displayed and sold along the Trans-Caprivi Highway at a cost of N.dollars 10 per pole.
Most of the illegally-harvested timber is apparently sold and exported to places such as Oshikango, South Africa and the Calai village in Angola, where it is then sold at exhorbitant fees.
The Mbunza chief said he is worried as it seems that some trees from which members of the community gather wild fruits, have been depleted.
Kaundu laid the blame for the illegal harvesting on some officials within the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s Directorate of Forestry in the region, who are apparently ‘collaborating’ with some community members and business people engaged in timber harvesting.
He said the traditional authority has on several occasions confiscated forest produce and brought culprits to the directorate, but no one who was accused of harvesting timber illegally in his area of jurisdiction has ever been prosecuted to date.
The Mbunza chief has now issued a temporary ban on the transportation and harvesting of timber within the communal areas in his traditional authority until further notice in efforts to prevent deforestation.
“The forest is now becoming a desert, so no more harvesting and transportation of timber until further notice,” he stressed.
Kaundu explained that the confiscated poles and timber will now be taken to the Mbunza Traditional Authority’s palace, where a decision will be taken on what to do with it.
Meanwhile, the two people who have admitted to harvesting the forest products illegally will soon appear in front of a traditional court.