Government recently suspended all timber licences "to protect the depleting forests around the country". Ministerial statement is embedded below. During the suspension period, no indigenous logs, cants or poles will be felled or transported to any destination. Any found will be confiscated and forfeited to the State. Natural Resources Minister Wylbur Simuusa says the move would NOT apply to exotic timber plantations or timber that is legally extracted, processed and was in timber yards, factories or markets.
Mr Simuusa says he has received many complaints : not all timber license orders are abiding by their terms; a lot of debris and branch wood is left on stumps affecting natural regeneration; many forest licenses have not demarcated their boundaries; poor or lack of fire management regimes; rampant local boundary disputes; and, over cutting and illegal purchasing of timber from local communities and chiefdoms.
The ban appears fraught with difficulties from the start. It has been opposed by the Zambia National Association for Saw Millers who have asked the government to immediately reverse the ban on the harvesting, movement and trade of hard wood. It says the ban on the issuance of hard wood licences will only encourage smuggling, illegal harvesting and trade of such timer products. Those dealing in hard wood have not only lost business but many jobs have been lost in the timber sector following the ban of hard wood timber licenses. The association says the country had enough forests stocks and therefore sees no need for an immediate ban.
The problem there seems to be that this is another poor consultation. A key mistake the MMD made is ran government like a closed shop with no clear consultation with the public. It treated government policy as “personal to holder”. It was particularly notorious for not issuing Green and White Papers as is customary in well ran governments around the globe. These papers were replaced by poor "Cabinet Policy Papers" that ordinary Zambians never saw or commented on. Zambians were treated with impunity and taken for granted. Only in rare instances would one outside the ministry be lucky enough to hear the odd "Ministerial Statement" which often was poorly debated in the House. Consultation is the hallmark of effective government. A lot of problems can avoided if only Government can consult more widely. Of course consultation must never be an excuse for policy inaction, therefore balance must be found between open consultation and work of the government. But on key decisions being made including this one, there's minimal public consultation.
But even outside consultation problems there are serious questions around enforcement. We have seen with the Tujilijili ban it is costly to enforce ban and all it does is push the trading more underground. Perhaps the "open nature" of the timber business lends itself to easier enforcement. It is one to watch.Ministerial Statement - Timber License Ban