Extracted from Parliamentary Hansard:
PROTECTION OF TIMBER PLANTATIONS
HON. MUCHIMWE: I move the motion standing in my name that this House;
CONCERNED with the rampant destruction of timber plantations by surrounding communities who indiscriminately set veld fires while poaching animals in these plantations;
DESIROUS to see an end to this unwarranted environmental destruction which has seen large timber plantations depleted;
NOW, THEREFORE, calls upon Government to enforce relevant legislation to ensure protection of timber plantations.
*HON. CHINOTIMBA: I second.
HON. MUCHIMWE: Thank you Mr Speaker. I rise to move my motion because as from July 2018 to date, 10 000 hectares of timber have been destroyed, sources have disclosed. Erin forests, Nyanga timbers and Chimanimani plantations were set ablaze. Also Leopard Rock plantations are randomly cut off. According to a veld source statistics, between the period of 2017 to 2018, 20 million loss in timber was recorded, meaning that 12% of plant population was destroyed. In summary, as from 1998 to date, 12 million plants were depleted by almost half to 6 500 000.
Zimbabwe is not supposed to import timber. Instead, it has to export it to resuscitate our economy. For a big river to be in flood, tributaries should pour water in it. Every point that subscribes money in Government coffers must not be disturbed just like the artisanal miners and tobacco growers. These have the potential to give weight to the Government coffers. Timber is very important. If it is destroyed, we lose a lot of foreign currency in this country. Thank you.
*HON. CHINOTIMBA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I have stood up to add my voice on this motion which was raised by Hon. Muchimwe. In this country, it is as if there are people who are employed to cause fires. It is not only timber but the whole country is burning. People are starting fires everywhere. Our country is not seen as a country now because of these fires. Grass, trees and everything is burnt. Last week, I saw people burning tyres and the fires would destroy the forests.
*HON. MADZIMURE: On a point of order Madam Speaker. The issue before this House is about the burning of timber which is used in carpentry; not burning of buses. There is a difference between the burning of buses and the burning of forests.
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, order. Hon. Chinotimba, may you stick to the motion please.
*HON. CHINOTIMBA: Thank you Hon. Speaker. What I am saying is timber or those who cause fires do not start by burning trees but they start fires beside the roads which will cause forests to be burnt. What causes timber to burn is making a fire, whether it was made by grass or sorghum, the fire that was caused last week is the fire that we want to do away with so that we do not have any fires being started in the country.
If you go to Matabeleland North, there is no timber like we find in Chimanimani or Nyanga. We have timber which is called ‘mugaragubu’ from Matabeleland North. We want to talk about trees as they are, not gum trees like what the Hon. Member has said. There are different types of timber and this is the timber that we should investigate in this country. If you come to our farms, you find that people are starting fires everywhere. We are encouraging the Minister to investigate what is causing these fires so that people are given stiffer penalties for them not to start fires anywhere.
Starting fires is not only dangerous to timber but also to people. What is being said is that people who are in farms and rural areas should not burn our forests, they should not just start fires everywhere. That is why I have stood up to support the motion by Hon. Muchimwe that as Hon. Members, when we are in our constituencies, we should make sure that people do not start fires. Even in towns, we should make sure that people do not do the same. Many times we are happy when we see fires being started. Politically, we see that some are happy but they are not aware that they are destroying the country. So, what we are saying is, if you are an MP whether from the rural areas or farming areas, you should make sure that people do not start fires everywhere.
Some people are cutting down trees so that they treat their tobacco. We should encourage farmers to go and buy charcoal instead of cutting down trees everywhere so that we process our tobacco.
HON. NDUNA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to thank the mover of the motion and the seconder but I want to touch on a few points that this motion speaks to. It speaks about poaching or people looking for animals in order that they subsist and amongst other things trying to protect themselves from dangerous animals like elephants and the like. What I ask and urge the Executive to bring here as law is the issue of dealing with wildlife and human conflict in totality. We can take a cue from Namibia which has an up scaled compensation for those that would have their plantations, crops and their livelihood destroyed by wildlife. This is the point that I want to bring to fore because as long as we do not address the human and wildlife conflict, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and we are bound not to stop the scourge of plantation burning and veld fires because there is going to be rampant and unwanton burning of bushes and plantations in order to ward – off wildlife and also to get subsistence from wildlife.
However, I want also to urge the Government to continue the issue of campfire projects which derive benefits from wildlife for the community and it should be established in various areas including the areas that the Hon. Member spoke about; the Chimanimani and Manicaland Districts, because this is established very well in Kariba and may be in Victoria Falls and Hwange areas. Campfire is vibrant and it should also be established in these areas so that we stop immediately in its tracks the issue of veldfires. I want to continue by saying the issue of compensation, from a hindsight, I think our neighbours, Namibia, you will find that for somebody who would have had their livelihood destroyed or their life taken by wildlife, there is compensation that comes from that community and from Government to the tune of US$20 000. I stand to be guided for somebody who has died but for somebody who has been injured, there is still compensation to the one who has been injured derived from the wildlife management entity. So, wildlife should be used in order to avert and alleviate the plight of those that would have been found in wildlife-human conflict.
I want to also say whilst there is the wanton burning and veldfires upstage on our communities, there is need to have what we call woodlots for our agricultural purposes or curing of tobacco. We have coal but for places such as Manicaland, this is coming in from a distant place and we need to establish woodlots for those that are engaged in tobacco plantation and tobacco planting and harvesting. Tobacco in 2016 must have brought for the nation US$200 million. We need to use some of that money to establish woodlots so that we do not deplete our forests. I am quite alive to the fact that the eucalyptus tree takes so much time to grow and it is used for our roofing timber and material. So, if we burn it because we want to cure our tobacco, it certainly is going to make sure that as a country we lose the much needed foreign currency for our economic emancipation and development. I make a clarion call for the development of woodlots so that we can use those woodlots to cure our tobacco.
I am aware that we got an Agrarian Reform Programme that was established in 2000 but we did not establish woodlots to support this Agrarian Reform Programme. We now need to harmonise our laws in order that we continue to support the formerly marginalised Black majority because this is why this Agrarian Reform Programme was put in place but we did establish safety nets in the form of woodlots in order to cure this ubiquitous amount of tobacco that is now being grown.
As I conclude, we need to harmonise our laws; what is a challenge in our society is not the lack of law but it is the implementation of those laws. You will find that the environment technicians who are tasked with policing our environment are going around doing it for their own personal benefits as opposed to national interest and benefit. You will find that these environmentalists will turn a blind eye completely to issues to do with nationhood and will only turn an eye to where they can benefit and they want to get what they can and can what they get. This is called corruption and as long as we do not address this cancer of corruption we will not achieve the Vision 2030 which is espoused in His Excellency’s statement for a middle income economy come 2030. So, the issue of corruption within the environmentalists needs to be nipped in the bud so that they can implement what is enshrined in the laws. There is no death of the law but the issue of implementation.
They also need to be resourced and how do we resource them; my suggestion is that let us resource them arising from the economic benefits that are derived from the sale of our timber from those plantations. Let us have the Minister of Finance ring fence that money; put it into the Central Revenue Fund but after accounting for it, he should get it back to Manicaland so that that money can be used to police the environment by the environmentalists. I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to vociferously, effectively and efficiently put across my point as it relates to this motion.
*HON. MAKONYA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to thank the mover of the motion, Hon. Muchimwe and seconded by Hon. Chinotimba. Madam Speaker, the issue of plantation burning is worrisome especially for us who come from Manicaland. People in that area are burning plantations. I have realised that the resettled people are causing these veld fires when they are preparing land for farming and not people from afar. In Rusitu, it is a mountainous area and the purpose of those trees is to curb soil erosion but they are burning the forests because they want to plough maize. Some of them are destroying the forests looking for mice. Madam Speaker, EMA should do something about this issue. EMA is a toothless dog when it comes to the burning of forests, even the police. If there were stiff penalties for people who causes veld fires, I do not think people would continue burning forests. We have not come across someone who has been tried for causing veld fires. In veld fires, people lose their lives, wild animals are destroyed as well just because people would want to get mice.
If you drive along Chimanimani, you will find small children on the roadsides selling mice that they would have gotten from the plantations they would have burnt. Government should take a tough stance especially to those who are found on the wrong side. They should quiz the person on the land because they are the ones responsible for the burning of the plantations. Thank you Madam President.
HON. SACCO: Thank you Madam Speaker Maam. I want to thank Hon. Muchimwe for bringing forward this motion. My first contribution is, if we do not contain the issue of veld fires, we will be importing timber in the near future….
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Honourable. Please, may you use one language.
HON. SACCO: I have just been told I cannot speak English, so I will speak in Shona. *Firstly, my issue is on local communities that they should benefit from those plantations because we see that the people that benefit from the plantations are the ones that do not stay there. The people in the area should own the resources so that there is no burning of forests. The other issue is that of settlers. I am a Member of Parliament from Chimanimani East and I know what happens in Chimanimani and I am saying these communities should be regularised where they are staying. If people are supposed to be removed, they should be resettled, therefore, I have an issue on the regularisation of settlements so that some people will be resettled.
The other issue that I have on veld fires is that Government should help us by providing us with fire fighting equipment because we are not capacitated to fight fires when they break out in the plantations because when fire starts, all the plantations will be destroyed. So fire fighting equipment should be imported duty free and if the Government can subsidise, that would be good for the timber industry. Still on that issue, I want to touch on replanting of trees in the plantations. You will see that it is now the problem of people resettled in those areas and I will give you an example of Allied Timbers. It has more than 15 years without replanting trees. If people do not maintain the plantations, the people around will use it for farming because for 15 years, they will be harvesting and not replanting. We are urging Government to approach FAO United Nations so that we get money from the Climate Change Facility. We plead with the Government that they should come up with a fund to subsidise growing of trees. Our people cannot die of hunger when they are faced with forests that do not have trees. This touches our people because they want land for farming because there is land hunger out there. We should also curb on carbon emission.
The other issue is on artisanal gold miners. We are in the process of legalising gold miners. As a Member of Parliament, I am happy about that because if it is regularised, we will curb the issue of veld fires. I thank you.
*HON. MADZIMURE: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to thank Hon. Muchimwe for his courage to bring in this motion. If you travel around summer, you will be pained to see how timber will be burnt. What is shocking that when these veld fires start, you do not see anyone trying to put out the fire. Some people who see the fire starting will be the plot owners and you will find that the same people would want to harvest the timber but they do not try to put out the fire. After harvesting, before we get to the dry season, people would make fireguard to separate the road from the plantations. Fire would start even from the people who throw away cigarette stumps but when we started land reform, because of lack of knowledge, we thought that when you are resettled, you are not supposed to go and hunt for animals because that has depleted our forests.
There is an issue of laws which are not being followed. The people who are supposed to implement the laws are not capacitated. If a person has land and fire starts in your farm and you are seen to be doing nothing to put out the fire, you are jailed for that. I think that should come from this House.
Madam Speaker, if you travel to a place where timber is supposed to be grown, you find that even the small animals like rabbits are not there because they have been finished by people. This is what has happened. Let us come to the solutions. The solution is that we should grow plants. For trees to be grown there should be a rule and demarcation of where plantations start and you grow. There are people who are staying in the plantations area. We really want trees because we get furniture from there.
There are trees which cannot be grown like mukwa that we get from Lupane and Tsholotsho. If those trees are burnt, that is the end of it, and they will not grow again. The challenge that we have with our Government is that it was not knowledgeable that for us to get trees and plantations was because the trees were planted. If you go to countries like Sweden, when we were reading History about the Viking, you find that there are huge forests. They go to hunt because animals are still there. This is because they have a policy that each and everyone is aware that the country belongs to them. They all have the same rights and they know how to use trees.
Most of their houses are built using trees but you do not see the forests being burnt. Their policy sis that if you cut down a tree, you plant one tree. Because they owned the process, they ended up saying that if you cut one tree, you plant three trees. You find that by so doing they still have large forests to the extent that they also export timber.
As Zimbabwe, you find that we have ministries who are responsible and are supposed to oversee these forests. Madam Speaker, you do not even hear anything. May be a programme gets announced on radio but you do not hear or see warning signs. Even if you travel to Bulawayo especially this time, there was a time when you would not see what is besides the road but now you can visibly see even five kilometres away. Trees are burnt everyday and there is no action from the Government. So the issue that we have is that many a times we come up with laws and we have institutions like EMA. They are collecting fines but we do not know what those fines are channelled to.
We were known by supplying Botswana but now Botswana is making poles from steel yet they used to buy timber from Zimbabwe. These allied companies and Forestry Commission exported treated gum poles and it was known that treated gum poles come from Zimbabwe. Now, no one is amazed; that is why are we not getting forex from the timber. Tributaries which bring foreign currency into the country are now dying. If they die, they die forever.
Madam Speaker, if someone starts by going to the farms, they should be aware that there is need to set up woodlots for use on the farms. If a person owns a farm, they should be aware that they do not just cut down trees randomly but should plant trees that they cut. A person should know that you buy coal in order to treat tobacco. If you want to be a farmer, do not give everyone responsibility to look after you as a farmer. Go to the farm and take into account that even animals can stray on the farm and that is what makes it a farm.
So, there is something that is missing on Hon. Muchimwe’s motion like the issue that laws are there and people are aware of them but the custodians of the laws are the ones who have the farms. Even if you go to the Ministry of Agriculture, those who have a stake in agriculture you find that the offices will be empty because they have farms. No-one has said let us come up with command tree planting. Command to look where money comes from and for them just to squander. For our natural resources, no one is taking care of that.
The biggest issue is that there are people who are not doing what they are supposed to do. As the august House, we should call upon the Government on the work that should be done and that the chiefs and village heads should confront people who start fires. I do not agree much with the Hon. Member who once said that he is now talking about politics of buses being burnt when we are discussing a pertinent motion here. What I am trying to say Hon. Speaker, is that this motion is very important and as Members of Parliament, we should be aware that when things are brought here, they should be seriously taken note of instead of playing games because let such good motions being discussed like on a talk show it destroys our nation. So, Madam Speaker, I plead with you that this motion be taken seriously. Let us address the issue of penalties and that people observe the laws. Those people who are settled in farms should be able to look after the forests and they should replant trees and look after them properly. We should not turn our country into a desert. Thank you.
*HON. MUDARIKWA: Thank you Madam Speaker. This issue of fires is worldwide. Long back there were wild fires in America which even planes failed to put off. These fires which Hon. Muchimwe is referring to, we should find ways on how to prevent those fires and also that we should make people aware of the importance of trees. The biggest issue that we have is that when Hon. Members were speaking, they were saying people start fires because of mice. Let us look into what we can do with those people for them to get help.
When I grew up, I used to love mice. It is a small animal and it is not a thing that I can burn grass for but we should really look at that closely whatever people are burning forests because they want mice.
One other aspect is that of poverty and I want to thank Hon. Sacco who said there is gold out there. Madam Speaker, poverty is very dangerous and it does not fade away easily. Poverty can be alleviated by gold. Munhumutapa Kingdom was built because of gold. We should encourage our people to engage in gold mining. Tobacco is there but there is no one who can ferry coal from Hwange to Chimanimani to cure their tobacco.
As legislators, we should go to Chimanimani and educate the people on growing cannabis because they can earn foreign currency by growing and selling it. That is where many of these drugs come from. All of us here have drugs in their pockets. If you do not have them I think probably you would have left them in your hotel room. If you take a look at these drugs you will find that there is the small component of drug but the larger part is cannabis. I think we should be liberal in our thinking. When I talked about this issue seven years ago people laughed at me but later on the Government came in and they were spearheading the growing of mbanje. When it comes to wealth or business, blessed are those who see in the future because they will reap the rewards and that is how Hon. Muchimwe looks at this matter. He is a church leader of Johane Masowe and he was shown in the dreams that the forests are depleting. That is why he brought it to Parliament and I want to thank him for that.
The other issue is that in Chimanimani there is a lot of water. Fish is being reared in drums. You can feed all the Hon. Members here by just breeding fish is two drums. Our people are hungry because of poverty. Poverty is the inability to utilise resources around you for your personal, national and international benefit. We are not able to use the resources around us so that we get out of poverty. We only look outside to other people to come and help us. When we were young we used to have this kind of mindset. At the school where I attended, if there was a beautiful girl then our big brother from Harare would come and court that girl. I think our minds should be liberated. The issue that we have here is that our poverty is not because we do not have anything but it is in our minds.
Last week I was in Chihota where there was a memorial service; they were playing the mbira and singing the song hurombo mukoma hunodzamira. That is what will happen. We cannot move our hands because we are hypnotised by poverty in our minds. If poverty comes on a person who thinks he is educated he will think that it is a good thing. What we are saying here is that people who were resettled in Chimanimani cannot start fires there but it is outsiders who were not given farms who are starting those fires. We should look at this issue with a truthful point of view. There are some people who were not given land, they are the ones who think that the people who got land are bad. This is a challenge that we come across. If people want land the land is still there. Our Government has said they will give land to everyone. Let us look at the challenge that we have.
We should look at the issue of ZISCO Steel. We can use the steel from there to roof our houses. If we are looking at timber it is a long term project and I think we should help each other so that we will be able to curb this starting of fires. I want to thank all the people who have contributed to this debate. We cannot agree on everything but we can agree that starting fire is bad.
The way you present issues differs from person to person. I was looking at the O level results in my area – some passed and others failed. It does not mean that those who failed were not in class but the way they understood issues was different. When we are debating we should not be fast because some will not understand. I think Parliament should hold another seminar where we go to Chimanimani and explain to people so that the slow learners will move together with others because we have Members of Parliament there.
I visited the home area of another MP whom I shall not name and I think there should be a law that enjoins every Hon Member to plant 1000 trees. For example, in Uzumba I get 25 000 votes and so the Member of Parliament should plant 25 000 trees every year. If I plant all that and multiply by five years, it means I would be planting a lot of trees. Even in the prayers that we do, we should say that ‘Father bless the area of Chimanimani so that fires will not be started’. Those who lend money should give out loans to people who deal with fires so that they buy machinery.
What we are saying is that if farming does not have the backing of financial institutions then it will not go anywhere. This motion is very good and we encourage that as we move around we take this to the ministries because when we debate ministries will not be represented. This Hansard should be taken to the ministries concerned. When I am speaking I want you to listen because I was once a Minister. If you do not listen, you will not win elections. There are some who used to make noise whilst others were debating – when elders are speaking you should listen. Thank you.
HON. HAMAUSWA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to support the motion which was raised by Hon. Muchimwe. I want to add that even if our forests are being destroyed by fire, there are some Government institutions and companies, especially those that are mining, they are destroying our forests. For example, in Chiadzwa, all the Muuyu trees were destroyed, the Chinese tried to plant them because the people in Chiadzwa used to depend on those trees for a living making mats for sale. However, when the mining of diamonds came, these people are no longer depending on Muuyu trees.
So, I urge the Government to put a policy that if a company is given a licence to mine and if it destroys the indigenous trees, it should be encouraged to plant trees to replace those that they would have destroyed. If you go to Penhalonga, the Russian Company which used to mine gold destroyed Mutare River. There is a place where Mutare River was diverted, it stretched its course and trees were destroyed. These are two areas Penhalonga and Chiadzwa where companies operating from there had an agreement that they should plant back trees which they would have destroyed.
As we are looking at these plantations, let us not only look at the exotic trees, we also have indigenous trees which are very important to our health. Many people in this country are buying aloe veraproduct using the hard earned forex but it is the same aloe vera which is so abundant here in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe we also have trees like Mubvamaropa which cures ring worms, unfortunately these trees are being destroyed, and people are cutting them down rampantly. It is one of the things I think the Government should look at.
It is high time that our Government should look at the exotic trees which we are looking at, do they go along with this climatic change or we should be planting other trees which do not need a lot of water and also trees that would help our famers.
When trees are being planted; as we were growing up, the tree planting day was very important but these days we only see our leaders planting just one tree. I think we should resort back to our tradition that when trees are being planted, all the schools should be involved. The ZESA company also contributes a lot to the cutting down of trees when installing their cables from Cabora Bassa but we have never heard of the ZESA company being charged of the damages made.
So, a good motion like this should be looked at with an open mind. It is high time that we should demand statistics as Zimbabweans that how many trees are we loosing as a nation. I urge this august House that this issue must be taken up by the Committee on Environment and do a research on how many trees have been lost so far and the amount it costs to make replacements. Institutions involved in the cutting down of trees like ZESA, diamond mining companies and gold mining companies in Penhalonga should be engaged with regards to making contributions to replace lost trees. We want this issue of replanting to be put on the top of the agenda. If we look at places like Buhera, you find that those areas have guava trees which just grow in the forests. So, when replanting we should consider trees that we cannot just cut for no reason. In Mutoko there are a lot of mango trees, in some areas you get bananas. So, when replanting of trees is being made, the Government should encourage people to plant trees that they benefit from.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me this opportunity. We pray that our Executive would be kept awake because if we have a leadership that will sleep over their jobs, we will not go anywhere as a nation. It is not their fault but it is just like a spirit so I think we should come up with a way that this spirit which possesses our leaders should be removed so that our country will move forward.
*HON. CHOMBO: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to my voice and also thank Hon. Muchimwe for this motion and express how pertinent it is in our country. Veld fires have destroyed a lot of things in our country; nowadays forests are being destroyed because people are no longer interested. Long back, if a fire would break out, the whole community would run to put out the fire. We are not taking our farms to be important, if fire breaks out, snakes and other small animals will also suffer. As a result, we are not respecting our forests. In places that we stay, there are farmers and most of them use electricity. So when a fire breaks out, it also affects ZESA poles and it affects our farmers. Why are the communities nowadays not respecting the forests? What can we do so that people will start respecting forests? Our Government should go to schools and teach our children about the importance of forests and how important to put out fires. There are village heads and chiefs in our areas. These people are the custodians of the land. We should give them the powers and talk to them strongly that we should come up with competitions that if there is no fire breakout in your area, you will get a reward. I think we should also compete against each other as constituencies. A constituency which does not have any fires or a constituency that plants more trees should get a trophy.
When we are doing our campaigns, I think we should also teach people how important it is to look after our forests. We have people who smoke and just throw their stubs everywhere and we are not concerned about it. We have called upon miners from China and they have finished all our land taking chrome and they are not planting any trees. I think when we are signing these agreements, we are not stressing to them how important our forests are. Probably it is important on paper but we are not making a follow up.
Going back to the issue, we should have laws governing that. We might have laws but we have the department of EMA which is not doing its job of following up on land degradation and also punishing people who cause fires and destroy the forests. In Zimbabwe, we know that we have traditional healers. When the forests are being burnt, most of our herbs are being burnt. How are we going to live? Like what the previous speaker said, the Committee on Environment should move a motion so that we stress how important it is for us to look after our forests. Thank you.
*HON. NYATHI: Madam Speaker. I stand up to add my voice on this motion which was moved by Hon. Muchimwe and seconded by Hon. Chinotimba. This issue of fires is a worldwide challenge but as Zimbabweans, we should see the importance of this. This issue has been brought coming from Manicaland but in Zimbabwe, we have a challenge of fires everywhere. Others burn forests because they are looking for gold, some will be looking for animals and others will be doing land preparation. When we grew up, all those who were born in 1960s and before, we knew that even in the hospitals, the beds were made of wood. For us to get oxygen, it is because of trees and even when death comes, you are put in a coffin. So, it is very important that we should see the importance of trees and also teach our constituents under us that they should look after their forests.
I want to say that as legislators, in English they say courtesy is contagious, let us spread the epidemic. Let it start with us to show that forests are important. We should start to grow trees as Members of Parliament that each and every one of us plant 20 or 50 trees around your area every year. This will bring a difference. I also want to say that with this burning of forests, we are not only losing timber but we are also destroying the eco-system. This means that even small animals and birds are also destroyed. God in his wisdom created all things for our benefit. In the Bible, we were given dominion over all these things, so we are custodians of the things that we were given by God and we should look after them properly.
There are people here talking about spirits. Last year, our President went to the Midlands State University, he opened a centre for research and development, which is an innovation hub. At that university, there are students who came up with a way of planting special trees which we planted along Zvishavane road where chrome has been mined and we tried to resuscitate the land. We took seeds and put them in moist soil. You can put them in a drum; you can just sow them like sorghum. The seeds cannot be eaten by mice or birds. We cannot say there are spirits that possess our Executive because we have seen that what they have done is an innovation which has never been done in any country. It has started here in Zimbabwe, starting from MSU.
As Members of Parliament, if we are looking at things that concerns our nation, we should put our heads together and come up with the best way forward of controlling veld fires. I am grateful for this idea that we should come together and find ways on how we can replant our forests. Lastly, I would want to say that as legislators, it should start with us so that those we lead will see where we are going because we are the ones who have the vision.
HON. SARUWAKA: Thank you Madam Speaker for eventually allowing me to take a stand and contribute to the motion raised by Hon. Muchimwe, seconded by Hon. Chinotimba. Madam Speaker, I want to say the motion is very important as it speaks to a problem that has affected the province of Manicaland in a big way. The timber industry in Manicaland was the biggest industry contributing to the success of our province especially the town of Mutare. You will find that the industries in Mutare are predominantly depended on the timber industry. In terms of area, I would like to tell you that we had over 150 000 hectares (ha) of commercial timber plantation; the exotic plantations comprising mainly of wattle, gum and pine. Up to around 2000 before the advent of the land reform, the timber industry employed more than 30 000 people in Manicaland. When the land reform began, some invasions occurred on the timber plantations. The leadership of the companies decided to seed part of the land so that they ease the pressure from the land invaders and from Government’s demand of that land.
It did not help much because when the invaders came in, there was lack of political will by the Government to remove those that had settled themselves in the timber plantations. If you look at our land reform policy, it was very clear that no one was allowed to settle themselves in the timber plantations and unfortunately for most of the land invaders they started burning the timber plantations to make a statement that they really wanted the timber or the land.
So, I want to say what we really need from our Government is sincerity in terms of dealing with land invaders because once there is sincerity and consistence of policy in the timber industry then we believe from the timber side we can rescue this very important industry. Madam Speaker, from the timber plantations we get products like construction timber which is going to play a pivotal role in helping the rebuilding of this country. Also from the timber plantations, we used to get a lot of exports which brought a lot of forex for our country. As a country, I do not think we can afford to continue to import products like timber when we were given the natural environment which supports the growth of timber.
When you come to Manicaland, generally if you move from Chimanimani up to Nyanga, you will find great plantations of pine and for one to grow a pine tree from establishment to harvesting we are talking of about 20 to 25 years required. When we lose those plantations it takes a long time to recover. So my appeal to our Government and fellow legislators is that we must come together and support this motion by Hon. Muchemwe because it speaks a lot to an opportunity this country can have in resuscitating our industries because when we lose timber we lose a lot of things. When a fire ravages through a plantation, like most of the Members have observed, it does not only destroy the timber but also destroys the fauna, which is the animals that survive on the plantations. We must also realise that when God created us, He also created other living organisms that deserve to survive together with us. When fire goes through a plantation it destroys all these lives and we must do all we can to protect the life.
Madam Speaker, when you look at the timber industry and you place it in our economy you will realise that it is an important sector that will really help in reviving the economy. I just want to share a few figures that on average the timber industry is losing about 2000 to 3000 hectares of timber to veldfires but how can we help in stopping this? It is to allow for the surrounding communities to be incorporated in the teams that help in fire fighting because when you allow a fire to burn in a plantation, many of the times the same fire would have gone out of control to destroy homesteads even livestock. So it is in the interest of communities to make sure that they do not start fires because lives have been lost. One life lost is one too many. So I want to congratulate the mover of the motion to say he has come up with a motion that can bring people together because this is not a political motion. It is a motion which speaks to real issues that can help our country to move forward.
I just want to urge our Government to stick to the policies that they pronounce. It was very clear from the onset that the commercial timber industry was reserved or set aside, not to be invaded or to be distributed because of its specialised nature. I want to believe that if we really want to protect it any further, let us just go back to our policy document where those that do not have the capacity to run a timber plantation are given land outside the commercial plantation areas so that they can then plant their maize or rapoko in areas away from specialised areas for timber plantations. In that regard we will be able to help our country develop further. With those few words Madam Speaker, I want to thank you.
+HON. MASUKU: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to thank all those who have debated on this motion. It is an important motion indeed. The problem of our constituents is lack of knowledge. People are ignorant; they do certain things out of ignorance. Madam Speaker, I am of the view that it is important that Government departments like EMA should be quite strong in sensitising people on containing the environment and help the people to understand the importance of plantations to the country. If we look at veld fires, you will realise that some of the problems that we have are because of ignorance. People from EMA would have to sensitise the people in these areas. You will find that they are ignorant because they do not know much about fire and most of the time when the fire is there, there are no measures taken to help the people from the dangers of fire. People’s properties and plantations are destroyed because of ignorance. Surely, people can cause fire for mice that have no value! You will see that it is because of ignorance.
Madam Speaker, it is important for some of the people from these plantations to insure their properties so that when such problems arise they get compensation and replant instead of waiting for Government because they rely more on their plantations. They should have ways to protect themselves.
Another important thing said here is that in some of the communities where these issues are common, there should be teams in place ready to deal with outbreaks of fire on these plantations. They should not watch the outbreak of fire then lodge a complaint later. I would like to say this issue of fire is bad and retrogressive. I thank you.
HON. MUCHIMWE: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. CHIKUKWA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.