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‘Invaders kill timber industry’

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Allied Timbers Zimbabwe, a Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe subsidiary, has called on the government to remove illegal land invaders wantonly destroying its forest plantations.

The squatters were reportedly cuttng down trees, burning down forests and engaging in extensive gold panning in Manicaland Province.

The most affected plantations are in Chimanimani where 2 896 hectares of forest have been destroyed by the invaders.

Chief executive officer Joseph Kanyekanye last week said: “The illegal settlers’ issue in plantation areas has become so dire that it is impeding civil culture operations in not only Allied Timber Zimbabwe, but other timber companies such as Border Timbers and Wattle Company, among others, have suffered similar illegal occupations.”

He said the firm had incurred losses of up to $200 million through invasions in its plantations since 1998.

“I am disappointed there has not been political will to remove these illegal invaders,” Kanyekanye said.

“The most affected area is Chimanimani. Local police are not being helpful.This is now like an Irish top dancer playing on top of the glass roof, it will collapse.”

Kanyekanye urged government to urgently address the crisis and move with speed to make sure the problem was dealt with.

He said another timber area, Chisengu, was occupied by one settler, Simpson Manjonjori, who claims he was allocated the plantation by President Robert Mugabe. But, Kanyekanye said, Manjonjori did not have an offer letter from the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement.

Strenuous efforts to contact Manjonjori were fruitless yesterday. “Allied Timbers Zimbabwe has made several attempts to involve the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, traditional leadership and ZRP in the areas affected to evict the illegal occupiers,” said Kanyekanye.

However, the illegal land occupations have continued unabated with the settlers becoming a law unto themselves as they had turned violent, he said.

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