Environment minister Francis Nhema has ordered traditional chiefs to fine a beast to anyone randomly cutting down trees, recklessly starting veld fires or anything that degraded the environment.
Nhema gave the order at the belated National Tree Planting Day at Mutimurefu Prison on Saturday.
“Those found cutting down trees should pay a fine of a hen to the village head, then pay a fine of a goat to the headman, before being penalised a beast by the traditional chief,” Nhema said.
He said the penalties had to be heavy as 20 people had died because of veld fires last year alone. “Twenty people died from veld fires last year alone. The causes of the fires include mice hunting and pure negligence.
“We came to conscientise you about protecting our environment. When you are felling trees in order to sell firewood, you are as good as selling your country.
“Now you are given food aid from other countries because the hunger you are facing was ignited by lack of conservation. Are you proud to queue for a bag of salt? ”
Nhema blasted the “new farmers” who invaded formerly wildlife rich white-owned plots but had plundered all the animals. “Some of you here invaded plots, but have never planted anything meaningful. You are just cutting trees for firewood sale.”
But villagers said the minister’s law was open to different interpretations and prone to abuse by the traditional leaders.
“This law will make some of us who are suspected to be MDC supporters to suffer. The chiefs are obviously going to abuse the law for personal gain or fixing people,” said a villager from Hwendedzo area.
Among the Zanu PF heavyweights present included party secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, politburo member and Higher and Tertiary Education minister Stan Mudenge, Senator Maina Mandava and several Zanu PF MPs.