Zimbabwe: MUDZI West MP Magna Mudyiwa has called for the amendment of laws that deal with veld fires in order to impose stiff sentences on people who start them.
by VENERANDA LANGA
The Zanu PF MP introduced a motion on veld fires in the National Assembly on Thursday using a PowerPoint presentation, where she also called for courts to ensure environmental crimes are resolved speedily.
“The sentences are not deterrent enough for those convicted of starting veld fires and so I am calling for stiffer sentences, preferably custodial sentences for offenders or people who start veld fires in the country in order to curb this menace,” she said.
“The fire risk prediction for 2017 indicates that the fire season is generally 80% of high to extreme high risk for the greater part of the country, and what I have seen is that most of the causes of veld fires are anthropogenic, which means that they are originating from human activities, whereby, 90% of veld fires are caused by human activities, save for only 10%, which are natural fires.”
She said some of the causes of veld fires are reckless disposal of cigarette stubs, smoking out for bees during honey harvesting, people lighting up fires at bus stops on cold days and they leave them lit when the bus comes resulting in burning of vegetation, and even others who start fires to catch mice.
“The veld fires have impacted greatly on our lives resulting in the loss of livelihoods and income to some people. It has a psychosocial impact, which is associated with fatalities and family bereavement at times. There is loss of biodiversity as well and disturbance of the hydrological balance,” she said.
Mudyiwa said on average, the country had been losing over a million hectares annually on vegetation due to veld fires with the 2016 fire season recording a 10,4% decrease in hectarage burnt compared to 2015 and 12% decrease in fire incidences.
“In 2016, they destroyed over 197 335 hectares of vegetation. In 2014, we had the highest recording, which was 1 653 822 hectares of vegetation destroyed.”
Seconder of the motion, Lillian Zemura (Zanu PF proportional representation MP) said most rural areas were suffering because of veld fires that burn properties, crops, and even burning animals.
“We have seen a lot of grass, a lot of animals big and small and small insects that cannot protect themselves being burnt every day yet they were also created by God to be there,” Zemura said.