More than 59 people have been arrested in a joint operation by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC), Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to bust syndicates that are involved in the sale of illicit beer, sand poaching, illegal mining and deforestation.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Latest BCC council report shows that the operation, which is codenamed “No to illicit alcohol products, illegal mining, land barons and deforestation” has registered success.
The operation began in October and will run to the end of this month.
Council minutes show that council rangers were working with the police, EMA, the Forestry Commission, the Mines and Mining Development ministry and the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have arrested 59 offenders since October 21.
The BCC confiscated equipment belonging to sand poachers, timber merchants and artisanal miners such as wheelbarrows, scotch carts, and trucks.
“As a result of the first operation, there was a drastic reduction in the rate of sand poaching and a positive increase in trucks that collected sand at the two legal pit sand sites, which is a milestone.
“The stakeholders involved in this new operation were ZRP (MFFU), EMA, Forestry Commission, ZimParks and the Ministry of Mines,” the report read.
“A total of 59 tickets were issued to various offenders for various offences. Out of those 47 had been paid for with a total of $7 921,28 and 12 tickets were still outstanding with a sum of $17 696. In the month of October 106 truckloads were recorded at the two pit sand sites.”
As the economy plummets, illegal timber merchants are on the rise, battling to eke out a living.
Environmentalists have accused them of fuelling deforestation.
The high cost of electricity is blamed for the unsustainable fuelwood use.
Estimates are that Zimbabwe could be losing 330 000 hectares (more than 815 000 acres) of forests — which amounts to over 60 million trees a year.
On the other hand, illegal sand poaching and brick moulding is causing land degradation as sand poachers leave open pits that pose a danger to residents.
According to EMA, the most affected areas were Cowdray Park and Pumula high-density suburbs and council’s Mazwi Farm in Bulawayo.