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Timber Thieves @ Work

Wherever timber grows, thieves will inevitably be at work, plundering private property or State property indiscriminately.

The workers are often foreigners who are not documented to be in SA, thus illegal. The men and women work in very bad conditions, often more hours than is acceptable according to the Labour Department.  Even underage kids are used to harvest these trees.

Add to this the use of vehicles that are not roadworthy, with bad lights or no lights at all, making it difficult to see at night when driving mountain routes between Sabie, Graskop, Hazyview and White River. Very often the labourers are transported on the back of flatbed trucks, with no concern for human live or safety.

During the lockdown, several people who stay in Malieveld road reported that after 20h00 at night the trucks are driving in a residential area {Bylaws prohibit this} in contravention of lockdown rules, and SAPS vehicles were also spotted travelling not too far behind these trucks, but yet SAPS fail to act.

One of the major risks in this trade is the fact that this is harvested in winter during fire season and labourers working  at night in the cold of winter, the habit of making fire is a major problem; if there is a gust of wind and fire embers are blown into the plantation… devastating.

The security companies and state prosecutors are fighting endless battles trying to get prosecutions on these criminal elements. The municipality has also asked several security companies for assistance in these matters, but when it comes to prosecuting and holding criminals accountable but due to “lack of evidence” are often thrown out of court.

Timber crops are considered a renewable resource, used to make a multitude of products. Specific species of trees are planted, harvested and replanted in sustainable rotation. This ensures that there are trees at various stages of growth and maturity, ready to harvest for generations to come. With the illegal harvesting – timber theft – young trees, old trees: any trees! – are harvested with no regard for the irreparable damage they are causing.

What will be done about this?



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