Plea to protect Limpopo forest

Chester Makana

Chester Makana

The Vhembe Communal Property Association has asked the Limpopo department of environmental affairs to protect their land.

The association successfully claimed the Madimbo corridor, which forms part of the Matshakatini Nature Reserve, and is currently occupied by the South African National Defence Force after the community was forcefully removed in the early 1960s.

The area has since become a "fountain of wealth" for wood merchants.

The VCPA claims illegal wood collectors were deforesting the "rare virgin gallery forest area for wood operations".

The VCPA said the trees were being chopped down while they were still alive and as a result the area's inhabitants were being deprived of their livelihoods.

Deputy chairman of the association, Mudzweda Mahwasane claimed the government was failing to protect the forest and the community's interests. He said the VCPA would not tolerate "this illegal business".

The snag, he said, was that the community did not have full ownership of the corridor.

"We are deeply concerned the government is doing nothing about this matter. Foreign people are benefitting while the locals remain poor," said Mahwasane.

He said they were granted their rights in 2004 after a successful land claim, but that the Land Claims Commission was delaying the transfer of the land to them.

"Only once we are given the rights to the land will we issue permits for wood collection. For now our hands are tied," he said.

Departmental spokesman Lehlogonolo Masoga said they would send a team of "Green Scorpions" to investigate the VCPA's claims.

"Deforestation is a serous offence and punishable by law. So we are not going to allow this to continue," said Masoga.