ZIMBABWE’S leading timber producer Allied Timbers says it has resolved to engage thousands of illegal settlers who have invaded its timber plantations in a bid to find an amicable solution to the stand-off.
Allied Timbers group chief executive officer Joseph Kanyekanye told NewsDay on Tuesday that the company had started rationalising the settlements to ensure the settlers do not interfere with operations.
“Forests were never meant for people to settle in, but I think we should be less antagonistic this time,” Kanyekanye said.
“We will have people settled in areas where there are no trees and we will have an arrangement with them so that they don’t interfere with our operations.”
The company has been fighting running battles with the settlers amid reports that some had already established their own bush mills to harvest the timber.
Turning to the illegal gold panners who have reportedly invaded one of the company’s estates in Chimanimani, Kanyekanye said: “There should be a cost-benefit analysis to assess what is better, gold or trees, but the gold there is alluvial and you cannot sustain the mining over the years. You cannot rehabilitate the mining area too, therefore, a rational decision should be made.”
He also accused a Russian mining firm DTZ-OZGEO of illegally invading Allied Timbers Estate to construct houses, adding that his company had already taken the former to court over the matter. DTZ-OZGEO public relations manager Clara Ngwenya said the land in question was given to them by the government through the relocation programme.
“As a company, we are financing construction of houses for the people affected by our operation without direct benefit to the company, but improving the livelihood of the people in the community we operate from,” she said.
She added that the matter was dismissed at Mutare Magistrates Court and as such there was no invasion on their part.
DTZ-OZGEO is mining diamonds at Charleswood Farm in Chimanimani.