A woman was caught and faces heavy fines for felling council trees on the verge of Enterprise Road in Chisipite without permission on 1 July. Obliging workers at the site, apparently unaware they were doing anything wrong, confirmed to Harare News that the logs were bound for Mbudzi Roundabout to be milled into timber. They said that they were being paid by one Mrs Chanakira.
The department responsible for managing Harare’s tress, Harare Gardens, expressed no knowledge of any permission in place to fell the 11 large cypress trees, and were soon on site with council police from Highlands District Office in tow. The workers were open and cooperative to the questions asked, and gave the police and Harare News the contacts for Chanakira.
The tree cutting equipment was confiscated, and Mrs Chanakira was called in for questioning. Follow up from Harare News with Highlands District Officer Funny Machipisa revealed that Mrs Chanakira had taken three working days to oblige, and on being questioned denied any wrongdoing. She told Machipisa that she had permission from someone senior at Zesa, who had since died, but nothing in writing.
“She was very cooperative, but her story did not hold up. There is no way that someone can cut trees without permission from council. In fact, even when problematic trees have been identified, it is only council workers who will actually do the cutting, not even Zesa can cut trees, and certainly not members of the public,” he said.
“Unfortunately the truck driver made a getaway at the time and has been unreachable. We also don’t know where the logs from the 11 trees are,” said Machipisa. “However, if Mrs Chanakira’s story doesn’t hold up, she will be liable to pay damages for what she has done. Trees are a vital part of this city. Tourists to Harare are always amazed by how big and numerous they are. That is why there is a stringent process in how trees are removed, and district officers are the front line in this.” Machipisa urged anyone suspicious of tree cutters operating in public spaces to get in touch with their district office or Harare Gardens immediately.
“The fine for cutting even one tree is in the region of $1,000,” said a supervisor from the Gardens department. Residents reported that the truck and workers had been seen removing trees at no less than three other locations.
Chanakira declined to comment to Harare News after repeated phone calls. Police from the Highlands District Office were tasked with a full investigation, which is still ongoing.
Image: A truck loaded with trees illegally cut down from Enterprise Road.