Zambian government releases impounded Mukula-laden trucks

The Zambian government, claiming victory over the smuggling of Mukula logs, has released 272 impounded trucks.

But local traders complain that the export ban on this and other species is killing their livelihood.

Lands and Environment Minister Jean Kapata said the trucks were released after it was established that their documentation was legitimate.

Reiterating that the export ban is still in place, Kapata said the papers of more than 100 other trucks still had to be checked.

The trucks were impounded for allegedly transporting logs harvested in South-Eastern Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – who banned the export of raw Mukula logs. They were en route to a named country in southern Africa.

“We have managed to bring under control the smuggling of Mukula trees following the tough measures we put in place. The ban will stay in place and only those holding concession licenses will continue to operate,” Kapata said.

But president of the Zambia National Association of Sawmillers (ZNAS) William Bwalya said the ban will have a negative impact on the sector.

“This will lead to monetary losses for companies who are legally in the business, and have already secured international orders,” he said.

Bwalya said the ban will also lead to legal trouble for companies who now fail to deliver on secured contracts.

The Republikein newspaper in Namibia, however, reports that 194 trucks were impounded due to illegitimate documentation.

According to Namibian truck driver Blackie Swart, the minister was on national television ordering the release of all trucks, “but nothing has happened since”.

“All the trucks are at a standstill,” he said from Kafue in the south of Zambia.

Swart has since been in contact with Leonard Nambahu, the Namibian ambassador in Lusaka to establish what the delay is.

“We are not being contacted by the authorities in Zambia to tell us what the next steps are. Be patient, we are trying to get you released,” Nambahu said in a WhatsApp message.

According to Swart, who has been in Zambia since 22 March, there are 45 trucks from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana stranded at Kafue.

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