Trees still being looted

The forestry ministry says any person found in possession of logs must be reported to its offices.

07 May 2019 | Local News

Sources in Kavango East claim that Chinese national Hou Xue Cheng continues to log and transport timber from the area despite the suspension of harvesting and transporting licences.

Businessman Pieter Pienaar, who operates the Kavango Dune Camp near Tjeye village outside Rundu, photographed one of Hou's yellow trucks loaded with timber in the Ncaute area last Tuesday morning.

These pictures were posted on Facebook and were widely circulated.

“It is very clear the timber was recently cut. This particular truck must have broken down because the locals say they usually drive out during the evenings,” Pienaar said yesterday.

Pienaar said according to local people the timber was cut around the villages of Vikota and Nhoma.

“The tracks of the front-end loaders are still very fresh and visible,” Pienaar said.

“At night you can still hear how the lorries rattle along on the roads. During the day you can hear the chainsaws in the forest. Our forests are being destroyed but it feels like you hit a brick wall because this does not stop.”

A source close to Hou also confirmed that the logging and transporting of timber was continuing.





According to this source, who preferred to remain anonymous, four of Hou's trucks loaded with timber were impounded at Katima Mulilo over the Easter weekend.

The source said there was growing resentment among Hou's drivers because at least two of them had been arrested for driving overloaded trucks carrying timber, presumably from Zambia.

They appeared before a Katima Mulilo court on 29 April and their next hearing is scheduled for 29 May.



Denial

Hou last Friday emphatically denied any knowledge of the photographed truck.

When confronted with pictures, Hou's initial response was: “What does a picture say? Can you confirm the time and place of the driver?”

Asked whether he had the requisite permits to log and transport the timber, Hou responded: “Your question is childish. Do you think there will be no permit for cutting wood? And you don't have the right to ask.”

About the yellow truck, he said: “I don't know. Mine are all new trucks.”

He later said the photographs had nothing to do with him, adding: “If you think it's illegal, you can report [it] to the forest department.”

Still later, Hou said he was “busy with other business now,” adding: “Timber shipments have been suspended for a long time.”



'Will be dealt with'

The executive director of the ministry of agriculture, water and forestry, Percy Misika, on Friday said the ministry had not received a report on this “unlawful incident”.

Misika said the ministry had not issued any permit allowing timber to be transported since 31 March.

“When we come across someone transporting wood, that person will be dealt with accordingly. Any person found in possession of logs must be reported directly to our offices, either in the regions or at head office,” Misika said.

Asked why the ministry did not send its forestry inspectors out to see what was happening on the ground, Misika said the inspectors do travel “from time to time” to conduct investigations.

“But it's not easy to be at all places at all times,” Misika said.

Misika said the ministry nonetheless continues to carry out regular inspections and inform the law-enforcement agencies to stop all timber trucks.



Protest march

The Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) has called on all concerned citizens to take part in a protest march against illegal logging on Saturday, 11 May, starting at 09:00 at the Zoo Park in Windhoek.

NEWS said the march is to protest against the exploitation of Namibia's forests by illegal loggers in the Zambezi and Kavango regions.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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