Govt investigates illegal cutting of Mukula tree in Eastern Province

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—–Eastern Province Minister, Malozo Sichone, says Government is investigating a matter in which some officers are alleged to have been issuing fake permits to allow people cut down the Mukula tree in various parts of Eastern Province.

Mr Sichone told ZANIS in an interview this morning that some of the people who were found with the timber had government receipts that were issued by government officers.

He stated that some officers had dubiously acquired fake receipts that were being issued to dealers who were engaged in the timber trade.

The minister noted that the receipt numbers were not recorded at the Ministry of Finance and warned that legal action would be taken against anyone found wanting.

Mr Sichone implored all government officers not to engage themselves in illegal activities, saying their days in the civil service will be cut short once they were found wanting.

He also cautioned traditional leaders and other citizens to be vigilant and report suspicious activities.

Mr Sichone noted that government was losing out on revenue as those engaged in such activities have continued to use undesignated routes commonly known as “Zalewa’.

“If at all the tree has medicinal purposes, there is need to ensure that the country benefits from the actual value. Who knows it could provide a remedy to some disease affecting our people,” he said.

Mr Sichone disclosed that government was looking at ways in which the Mukula tree could be processed in the country to create employment for the local people and widen its revenue base.

The minister observed that the province had a challenge of controlling illegal trade within the borders with neighbouring countries which are porous.

Mr Sichone stated that there was need for people to be sensitized on the consequences of depletion of the forest with regard to climate change.

He stated that Zambia would continue to suffer the effects of climate change which he said affected agricultural production if the situation was left unchecked.