By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
Alexander von Bismarc, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA) has been busy since he issued and published internationally, his earlier Report; “Mukula Cartel- How Timber Trafficking Networks Plunder Zambian Forest”
It is clear that he wishes that his poorly documented and discredited report on Mukula trade in Zambia should gain international traction against the Zambian government for his own malicious purposes, objective and intent.
He is now constantly tweeting numbers and figures on the alleged loss to Zambia of what he calls Illegal Mukula trade by the “Mukula Cartel”.
I have never believed that foreigners can resolve Zambia’s problems other than Zambians themselves.
But foreigners like Alexander and others will not stop attempting to influence and determine the course, fate and future direction of our country.
Take for example Alexander’s recent tweet;
BREAKING!: #China reported 180 million USD MORE worth of timber imported from #Zambia than Zambia reported exporting to China.
But #mukula is banned in Zambia; how could this happen? Read #MukulaCartel #WhereDidTheMukulaMoneyGo https://t.co/qokroC8G5T
So let us attend to this alarming tweet and claim.
First of all, and since 2017, the Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation (ZAFFICO) Limited were allowed to trade in Mukula by exporting confiscated, seized or court processed Mukula.
A few license holders (who pay license fees of $15,000) also were given permission to export.
So yes Mukula is banned, but only to an extent. The correct perspective is that Mukula timber trade and exports have been restricted since 2017.
Secondly, according to the EIA, China reportedly imported 141,217 cubic meters of logs from Zambia between 2017-2018 hence the attached value of $193million.
SO WHAT DOES THIS VOLUME LOOK LIKE
I did some estimate and calculations.
Timber is calculated using cubic meters.
Let us start with how many logs form a cubic meter.
It is 250 logs(hardwoods) that form a cubic metre, (1 tonne Eco Mixed Hardwood = 2.1 cubic metres (approx.) 1 tonne Vintage Hardwood = 2 cubic metres (approx.)
If this were true, it means that Zambia exported over 35 million logs!
Since Zambia doesn’t use rivers and trains for log exports, but uses trucks.
This would require over 880,000 trucks(40ft containers) to the nearest port of Beira, Nakala, Durban or Dar-es -Salaam.
Bane! 880,000 trucks, 40 ft containers!
This is clearly ridiculous!
This is like dealing with an export volume that would take 15 years to complete!
SO WHATS THE CORRECT STATUS
All reputable records on Mukula trade(legal and illegal) estimate the trade to be worth $3.5million and $5million per year between China and Zambia and not the $193million.
We should remember that China imports timber and especially rosewood from Africa and Brazil.
The country that possesses the greatest area of forest is Russia.
Our Mukula and other hardwoods from Africa go to China.
China is the second largest timber consumer in the world after the USA.
On January 1, 2017, the Chinese government announced the prohibition on the commercial cutting of their natural forests.
Therefore domestic supply of merchantable timber has been contracting, and China’s reliance on timber imports has exceeded 50% since the Chinese government announced the prohibition on the commercial cutting of natural forests in 2017(by the way, Mukula exists in China too and was popular with furniture for imperial dynasties palaces).
The majority of African hardwood log imports by China come from Central African countries—Gabon, Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Mozambique—although Eastern and Southern African countries also export very small volumes to China.
Liberia is now one of Africa’s largest timber producers and, according to Global Witness, has seen more than 60 percent of its rainforest licensed to logging companies.
Mukula is a rare specie of Rosewood.
We will require to be more prudent, more careful, more responsible with Mukula and other hardwoods.
China has just banned all logging from natural forests. We will probably have to do the same and encourage logging and trade on artificial commercial forests like what ZAFFICCO has invested in the past.
This will help preserve our natural forests for ecological and other purposes.
Mukula trees and other hardwoods take upto 100 years to mature and cannot be dealt with in a wanton or careless manner as these rare trees form part of our valued national inheritance and heritage.
But the current legal and illegal trade cannot be allowed to be a basis to trade and prosecute a malicious propaganda and political war against President Edgar Lungu in the manner that Alexander and his outfit the EIA are doing.
ZAFFICCO were directed to invest the proceeds of Mukula exports in the Kawambwa Tea Plantation (which is now thriving) and in the replanting, replenishing and restocking exercise in their legacy forest plantations scattered across the country.
The IDC should therefore help with this information of what has been done with the export proceeds so that transparency is established and facts are made public.
It is an established tenet that in the absence of information, rumours and lies thrive.
The encouraging matter, however, is that both IDC and ZAFFICCO are public entities and the Auditor General is constitutionally obliged to audit all public entities and give the public their Report.
So this is coming anyway.
Should Zambia ban the cutting, transportation and exports of all rosewood timber (hardwoods like Mukula, rosewood, Mukwa, Mubanga, Zambezi Teak etc) as restricted by the CITES?
What’s your view?