Pursuant complaints by residents of St Peters Village in Bulawayo, Matabeleland Institute of Human Rights conducted an investigation into the alleged deforestation of areas of forest adjacent the village by Khami Prison officials and inmates. This monitoring report brings to light the extent of deforestation as well as what can be done to contain it. Read on to get perspective on these and other things affecting residents of St Peters Village.
On the 1st of August 2021, Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) received a complaint from St Peters village residents in Bulawayo ward 17 to the effect that Khami Prison officials and inmates are causing deforestation in areas adjacent to the village, chopping down trees for firewood purposes.
MIHR instituted a monitoring and verification exercise to establish the validity of the residents’ complaints. This Monitoring Report is therefore a result of the actual monitoring that was conducted and the information gathered through local key informant interviews and focus group discussions.
Scale of Deforestation
The scale of deforestation within the Mazwi Nature Reserve is massive and risking the extinction of a variety of fauna within the Reserve area. The MIHR Monitoring Team noted that the deforesters are targeting big trees which they chop down and collect their stems living the branches there. This habit was also observed on the other side of Khami Prison (towards Bilas) on the banks of Khami River. A variety of trees that include Mopani, Umganu (Marula), Umkhaya, Mangwe, were being targeted. Within the Mazwi Nature Reserve area, the MIHR Team did a random count of the chopped trees and counted above 165 trees. The Team is still continuing with the actual count of the number of trees chopped down.
Negligence by Bulawayo City Council
Rangers The Bulawayo City Council Rangers seem to be deliberately turning a blind eye to this massive deforestation happening within the Mazwi Nature Reserve area. The Khami Prison deforesters are chopping big trees during broad daylight and the sound of their axes can be heard at a distance. When they have chopped down the trees they use tractors to collect the wood. All this is happening during the day and it is concerning why the Bulawayo City Council Rangers are not intercepting them and stopping this action. With the sound of axes, the frequency of the deforestation and size of trees being chopped down, the modes of transport being used to ferry the wood, the history of deforestation by Khami Prision and the wide public knowledge around St Peters on the actions of Khami Prison – there is no way the Bulawayo City Council can profess ignorance of this action.
Unfair treatment by Bulawayo City Council Rangers
Villagers who spoke to the MIHR Team complained of unfair treatment by the Bulawayo City Council rangers. They said that when local villagers take wheelbarrows and scotch carts to collect firewood within the Nature Reserve area they are arrested by the Bulawayo City Council rangers and their implements confiscated. They felt the behavior of the Rangers was grossly unfair considering that some of the villagers will be collecting that which has been abandoned and left behind by the Khami Prison deforesting teams. The villagers questioned why the Rangers are not arresting the Khami Prison teams who are destroying living trees but instead arrest the villagers who are merely collecting branches and twigs and are not destroying any tree.
Access the full monitoring report here (3MB PDF)
Source: Matabeleland Institute of Human Rights