Ema, police blitz nets firewood vendors

HARARE - Police in partnership with Environmental Management Agency (Ema) yesterday launched a blitz against firewood vendors in the volatile suburb of Mbare.

Riot police officers armed with guns raided an illegal market in Mbare, just behind the country’s largest bus terminus where over 300 tonnes of firewood were confiscated and taken to Harare Prisons.

Ema’s principal officer responsible for ecosystem protection Christopher Rushava said his organisation was forced to launch the blitz after numerous complaints from villagers in Seke who have watched their community turning into a desert while a few “malcontent” elements are lining their pockets.

“This is an illegal business that we have to stop. It is the responsibility of everyone in the country to ensure that we protect the environment,” he said.

Rushava said areas such as Seke, which is 50km southeast of Harare, have been turned into deserts by people cutting down indigenous trees for business without a “heart for future generations”.

“It is the duty of traditional leaders and community leadership to take care of our resources, we must be able to save trees for future generations,” he said.

The firewood will automatically become State property and will be used to prepare meals for inmates, officials said.

Although police officers were expected to arrest those running the illegal business, men holding axe and other cutting materials could be seen freely leaving the place as soon as they saw law enforcement agents.
Police made no arrest but confiscated the firewood.

As firewood was being loaded into prison trucks by inmates, Tendai Manyasha, chairperson of a cooperative that was running the prohibited business, said families faced a bleak future.

“We have been left stranded now. I don’t know how I will look after my family. This business was a source of livelihood for over 100 people. We don’t know how we will make it. From my assessment, this is the end of the business,” he said. - Xolisani Ncube

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