Ray Bande Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT will soon roll out an operation to flush out those illegally settled in timber plantations in different parts of the province, a senior Government official has revealed.
Minister of State for Manicaland Affairs Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said Government will roll out “Operation Dzoka Kwawakabva” which will not spare any illegal settlers in Manicaland.
She made the remarks during the commissioning of new machinery acquired by Allied Timbers at Erin Forest Plantation on Wednesday.
Dr Gwaradzimba said she had been instructed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to remove all illegal settlers from timber plantations.
“Plans are afoot to relocate all illegal settlers from timber plantations across the province. The issue of illegal settlers has been a problem and we are dealing with it now.
“We were given the mandate to flush out all illegal settlers. We should remember that plantations are a sensitive area. We will soon roll out ‘Operation Dzoka Kwawakabva’ and I am warning people illegally settled in plantations to pack their belongings and go back to their roots. Be warned. No one can say they do not have anywhere to go and stay. Go back where you were before you illegally settled in plantations,” she said.
Dr Gwaradzimba warned the illegal settlers against planting crops this season as the operation will be rolled out before harvesting.
“Those illegally settled in plantations must not plant during the summer cropping season because they will be removed before harvesting.
“We do not want to use force. We respect the right to property, but we will be left with no option if people remain defiant. You cannot resist a Government directive.
“We served some eviction orders, but the people are reluctant to move out. We do not want to destroy property or houses, but at times people leave the Government with no option,” she said.
Timber Producers Federation chief executive officer Mr Darlington Duwa said 17 544 hectares of plantation timber had been occupied by the settlers, while mining activities had disrupted timber production in Tarka Forest in Chimanimani.
Zimbabwe sits on 39 million hectares of land, of which only 200 000ha are suitable for commercial forests. This means that the country needs to seriously protect the forests to avoid ending up importing timber.