Govt uncovers timber scam in Malawi

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——-Government, with help from authorities in Malawi, has uncovered a scam in which more than 20,000 logs were smuggled into Mchinji district in the neighbouring Malawi.

Lands and Natural Resources Permanent Secretary, Inutu Suba, was shocked to see what looked like a timber depot with over 70 heaps in a football pitch.

ZANIS reports from Lilongwe in Malawi that the timber depot was located in Nsapato Village in Mchinga district   which borders with Zambia’s chieftainess Mkanda’s area of Chipata district.

Ms Suba found more heaps of timber in at a place which appeared to be a timber depot in another village in Chief Mkanda’s area of Mchinga district in Malawi.

She disclosed that timber was discovered with the help of Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officers who confirmed that the timber originated from Zambia.

The Permanent Secretary stated that the authorities had agreed to secure it by ensuring that it did not exit Malawi as Zambia continued its investigations into the illegal activities surrounding the smuggling of timber.

She expressed concern that people had continued to smuggle the timber regardless of both its economic and ecological value to the country.

The Permanent Secretary was today taken to the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, where 34 containers, laden with timber, were destined for Asia through the Port of Nacala in Mozambique.

The 34 containers were intercepted in Dedza district which borders with Mozambique. The logs were on transit to Beira for exportation overseas.

Ms Suba noted that Thailand and China were named as major importers of the timber.

She bemoaned the increased illegal sale of timber which she said was depriving Zambia of the much needed revenue required for development.

And when asked why the timber was said to have been smuggled even when there was documentation, Ms Suba noted that according to Zambian Laws, people were not allowed to export unprocessed timber.

She stated that the timber was supposed to be processed into planks with specified width and length as opposed to the way it was being smuggled.

She said even though the exporters had what they termed as valid documentation it was still illegal because the law was not followed in the exportation of the commodity.

The Permanent Secretary suspected foul play in the acquisition of the documents, saying it was either the dealers forged the documents or some forestry officers were engaged in the illegal activities.

She stated that government would not rest until the matter was conclusively investigated so that the culprits were brought to book, adding that government would secure the logs and continue with the investigations after which she said the logs would be taken back to
Zambia for further action.

Meanwhile, some villagers in the area told ZANIS in an interview that the logs came from Zambia through chieftainess Mkanda’s area to Nsapato village where they were offloaded from trucks and graded before being exported to Asia through Mozambique.

The villagers, who chose to be anonymous due to fear of victimization, disclosed that people from both Zambia and Malawi were involved in the transportation of the timber.

In another development, the Lands Permanent Secretary said government wanted to ensure that all women including those in the diaspora access land in Zambia.

Ms Suba said government realised that women were generally disadvantaged in land acquisition, saying the move was meant to empower women to build houses.

She was speaking when she met embassy staff at the Zambian High commission in Lilongwe this morning.

The Permanent Secretary, however, observed that Lusaka had run out of land for development, saying government was currently making efforts to acquire land for expansion from neighbouring districts such as Chongwe, Kafue and Chilanga.

Ms Suba advised women to take advantage of government’s move and ensure that they acquired land for development in any part of the country.

And Zambia’s High Commissioner to Malawi, Salome Mwananshiku, commended government for the move, saying this would empower women in the country.

Mrs Mwananshiku said this would give morale to women in the diaspora to work harder and build in their country.