CZI wants squatters booted out

MUTARE - Timber firms in Manicaland are hoping that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government will finally act on invasions on the timber plantations by illegal settlers who were an untouchable lot during the tenure of former president Robert Mugabe’s administration.

Thousands of illegal settlers have invaded swathes of plantation land in Manicalaland, leading to loss of more than 30 000 hectares of productive area.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said government needed to weed out invaders to allow industrial recovery efforts.

CZI vice president Richard Chiwandire said the timber firms have continuously suffered invasions and disruptions without receiving any form of support from the authorities.

“Issue of illegal settlers on timber plantations needs to be addressed. These have been the greatest impediment in the recovery of this sector,” Chiwandire said.

Manicaland province is the biggest producer of tea, coffee, timber, beans and fruits.

Chiwandire said while the province was set to benefit from the granting of hospitality industry special economic zone status, the agricultural sector needed the “security of tenure on land, respect Bippa’s  and  have bankable 99-year leases regularised”.