Furore Over Timber Harvesting
5 August 2021

By A Correspondent- The Rushinga community has blasted its traditional leadership, Forestry Commission and Rural District Council for corruptly awarding an obscure company known as Vira Vika a tender to harvest timber in the local. 

An insider who spoke to Bulawayo24.com said the local people were not even addressed but alleged that it was a shady deal between Chief Makuni and Chief Rusambo, the Acting CEO for Rushinga Rural District Council (RDC) Kudakwashe Jonasi, the legislator Tendai Nyabani as well as the local Forestry Commission representative identified as Shava.

The company is said to be harvesting five indigenous commercial timber species in eight wards of Rushinga which are ward one to four and twenty one to twenty four. 

“It is said that the timber is being exported to China but the exit point is not yet known. 

Nobody knows where the company is based but some think that it is not locally based since it does not employ the local residents, but Mozambicans,” said the anonymous source. 

The shady deal has been allegedly going on for about a year now and the local residents are afraid that they may lose all of their indigenous timber without them benefitting.

Indigenous trees are protected species and it is alleged that the deal was done ‘above board’, but destroying the border line and the ecosystem at large. 

Four of the company members were introduced to a few Rushinga individuals by Nyabani to whom he said the Chief, Forestry Commission and Council are aware.

“Forestry Commission is said to be the one which gave authority for the timber to be ravaged. 

It is said that there is a Memorandum of Understanding which says Vira Vika will do reforestation and afforestation, but with no proof on the ground,” the source said.

Responding to concerns by furious local residents in a WhatsApp group, Shava said that Vira Vika went through all the right procedures. 

“The company that is harvesting timber is called Vira Vika resources, Forestry Commission, Rushinga RDC and Vira Vika resources have signed a Memorandum of Agreement which expires in 2022. 

The operations have the full blessings of the Environment Committee of Rushinga RDC, traditional leaders and the local communities involved,” read part of the message Shava sent.

Shava also said that Vira Vika pays monthly royalty fees to Rushinga RDC and supervisory fees to Forestry Commission at USD33/cubic metre of timber they harvest. 

“47.5% of the money goes to the ward where the trees are being harvested to fund approved projects, 47,5% goes to RDC Account and 5% goes to Forestry Commission. 

The projects for the community involves reforestation and afforestation. It’s only that some of the money for the Community is still stake in the Campfire account,” Shava added. 

However, the local people are not even sure if the Campfire account exists since there are a number of projects that are still pending, with some of them above a year, such as the Katoni Clinic. 

Contacted for commenting severally, Shava’s phone rang unanswered while Mashonaland Central Council Chair Spencer Chivarange and Jonasi’s phones were not going through up to the time of publication.