Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
KUSILE Rural District Council (KRDC) in Matabeleland North has courted a Chinese firm, Fazhao Investment to harvest and process timber in the area.
KRDC chief executive officer, Mr Christopher Chuma, said the local authority was in the process of awarding Fazhao Investment rights to harvest timber at its Zinapi-Tshongogwe concession.
“We are engaged in negotiations with Fazhao Investment, which intends to harvest timber on our Zinapi-Tshongogwe concession. The company is in the process of carrying out an Environment Impact Assessment in that area.
“It has to be understood that we are still to award them a contract as we are still considering their bid. The company is, however, in the process of setting up a state-of-the art sawmill in Jotsholo. The company will not use the facility to cut and process its harvested logs only but will do the same for individuals for a fee,” said Mr Chuma.
A sawmill or lumber mill is a facility where logs are cut into timber. Mr Chuma said the local authority stopped contracting timber logging companies due to under logging in the process depriving the local authority of royalties.
“We have two concessions, Shabula-Manase and Zinapi-Tshongogwe and if one wants to do logging we are now demanding payment in advance because we have over the years been deprived from generating revenue by contracting. We have a monthly quota to harvest 400 cubic metres from the Forestry Commission and we have had companies harvesting 200 to 250 cubic metres,” he said.
Last year the local authority accused Asmara Timbers of under logging at its Zinapi-Tshongogwe concession over a period of time, in contradiction of the addendum on memorandum of agreement made and entered into by the two parties in 2011 leading to the company having its five year contract being terminated.
Clause 19 of the agreement stated that: “notwithstanding any clause in the agreement should the concessionaire fail to exploit any forest produce for any period during the duration of this agreement, the Commission requires it to pay and the concessionaire shall pay the council a sum of money equivalent to 150 cubic metres per month and to the Commission any fee due for that period”.
In November, KRDC terminated a contract with Rise Gate Timber, which was operating at its Shabula-Manase concession.
In 2010, the local authority was also forced to cancel Platinum Timbers’ contract after the company failed to pay royalties amounting to about $120 000 accumulated over a period exceeding a year.
“It is, however, important to note that the timber industry is a bit depressed at the moment and no wonder why the Indigenous Timber Association was lobbying for the exportation of raw timber,” said Mr Chuma.
He said KRDC was also at an advance stage of venturing into the timber logging business.
“We have plans to do the logging on ourselves, we have already bought a chain saw and we are looking forward to buying another tractor and a trailer to add to the one we bought last year and we will also need to purchase a mobile saw mill thus we will be putting these on tender soon,” Mr Chuma said.
He said the local authority was engaged in a number of infrastructural developments in the district spearheaded by part of the royalties it obtains from the timber business.
“We use 50 percent of the royalties we get from the timber logging business to implement various projects in the district. At the moment we are building a clinic in Tiki and a school in Tshongogwe,” said Mr Chuma. — @DNsingo