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Chinese businesses and Namibian elites get rich illegally logging rosewood trees

13 January 2021 5:15 PM
Tags:
Namibia
Rosewood trees
Africa rosewood

Protected ancient rosewood trees are being chopped down in Nambia despite a moratorium on harvesting these prized hardwoods and a ban on trading raw timber.

Investigative reporter John Grobler visited the Okavango and Zambezi regions of Namibia, where the illegal felling trade is rampant.

Grobler wrote a report for the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and says he did not see a single mature African rosewood tree left standing.

He says Chinese-fronted companies and Nambia's political elite are making millions cutting down the protected hardwood species.

A pile of hardwood blocks at a depot in Nhoma in north-eastern Namibia. Image: John Grobler/Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

The trees are being felled on land that was set aside for settlement farms, previously belonging to the indigenous San peoples.

According to Grobler, the land is now owned by well-connected people with close ties to Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO).

"The devastation is heartbreaking to see", he tells CapeTalk host John Maytham.

I spent approximately a total of six weeks on this assignment. In that time up there, I never saw a single rosewood tree thicker than my two fists put together.

John Grobler, Veteran investigative reporter

There's nothing older than 50 years left, they've basically ripped out the last of the eyes of that once-magnificent forest.

John Grobler, Veteran investigative reporter

It's not to say that all the trees are gone. There's still of course millions of trees, but the rosewood species [has gone from] the endangered species there [to] and is now the critically endangered species there.

John Grobler, Veteran investigative reporter

[Rosewood] is the one that's wanted most for... furniture in China.

John Grobler, Veteran investigative reporter

The licences were basically issued without any environmental impact assessment or any of the measures put in place by the Forest Management Act.

John Grobler, Veteran investigative reporter

There's been an alignment of interests within the SWAPO party and the more predatory [members] of the Chinese business community to just try and make as much money as they can for themselves.

John Grobler, Veteran investigative reporter

Listen to the discussion on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:


13 January 2021 5:15 PM
Tags:
Namibia
Rosewood trees
Africa rosewood

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