Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean courts convicted only three perpetrators of veld fires, despite a legislative framework that encourages responsible environment management practices.
Officially launching Fire week at Vuti secondary in Hurungwe recently, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Francis Nhema said strides were being made to stop veld fires, but a lot still needed to be done through partnership with communities, traditional leaders and the media.
My ministry through Environment Management Agency has intensified law enforcement on veld fire-related offences in order to bring offenders to book. In 2012 a total of 874 tickets and 1,341 orders were issued to property owners to put in place standard fire guards. Our collaboration with the Zimbabwe Republic Police saw 129 dockets opened, of which 67 went through courts. But only three were convicted by the courts and given custodial sentences ranging from 3-12 months said Nhema.
He said small things such as throwing down cigarette stubs, hunting mice, poaching were some of the attributing factors to the surge of veld fires nationwide. Hurungwe is one of the countrys productive farming districts in maize, tobacco and cotton, but it is failing to control veld fires.
Over the years Hurungwe has been the worst affected by veld fires. In 2012 a total of 113,356 hectares were destroyed. Statistics show that more needs to be done in terms of veld fire management. Nationally, in the same year a total of 1,3 million hectares were burnt – representing an unacceptable 46 percent increase from 700,000 hectares lost in 2011. This upward trend is a cause for concern, said the minister.
He appealed to traditional leaders, communities, and other stakeholders to help promote environment stewardship to guard our natural resources. The time has come for everyone to be a catalyst for positive environment change. In 2012, we embarked on 1,065 nationwide fire campaigns. Some 324 kilometers of fire guards were cleared across the country with 7,783 families participating, added Nhema.