Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has roped in police and the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) to curb rampant firewood and sand poaching activities on the city’s outskirts.

The high cost of electricity is forcing many Bulawayo residents, especially those in suburbs such as Old Pumula and Robert Sinyoka to poach firewood from nearby forests.

The council has raised a red flag over the surge in deforestation on farms and forests around the city.

The Forestry Commission has on many occasions raised concern over firewood poaching, which has led to deforestation resulting in environmental degradation.

According to the latest council minutes, cases of firewood poaching in Bulawayo’s hinterlands are on the rise. In June alone, council and police intercepted 75 trucks carrying poached sand and several scotch carts loaded with firewood following a raid in surrounding farms.

“Two operations were conducted in June during which a few skirmishes were experienced resulting in the injury of one of the firewood poachers who is admitted at Mpilo Central Hospital.

During the patrols 184 tickets were issued to various offenders and out of those tickets, 175 have already been cleared totalling
$93 658,” read the report.

According to the report, during the same month, 75 truckloads were recorded at the two illegal pit sand sites. A total of 201 hand tools were confiscated including three trucks, 19 wheelbarrows and three scotch carts.

Council said it is now working on a joint operation with police, Forestry Commission and Ema at Ncema and Greater Bulawayo as cases continue to rise.

“The department intends to undertake a blitz at Ncema and Greater Bulawayo with the assistance of the other stakeholders to support the Forestry Commission, Ema and ZRP’s nationwide blitz code named Operation Huni dzabvepi/ Inkuni zivelaphi which will be executed over a period of two weeks,” read the report.

Recently, police in Bulawayo shot and injured a suspected cattle rustler after he ignored orders from the law enforcement agents to stop. The suspect was transporting firewood and refused to stop. He drove away and police gave chase before firing some shots.

The injured suspect was rushed to a local hospital in the city where he is recovering.

Police said it has become the cattle rustlers’ modus operandi to stash carcasses of stolen cattle under firewood.

Pumula has become a hotspot for stock theft as cattle from neighbouring villages stray into the suburb and rustlers then pounce on them.