Zambia’s High Commission has confirmed that Lusaka had seized 200 Tanzanian-registered trucks over illegal logging.
High Commissioner Benson Chali told The Citizen that the lorries were found carrying protected mukula (Pterocarpus chrysothrix) logs without valid permits.
Last week, Tanzania's then Transport Minister Leonard Chamuriho said the country was not aware of trucks seized in Zambia and had not received any complaints from the lorry drivers or owners.
In 2016, Zambia banned the felling and transporting of mukula, a type of rosewood, as part of its efforts to curb its rapid loss fuelled by growing demand of rosewood in Asia.
In 2018, Zambia Revenue Authority seized at least 250 lorries that were found carrying banned timber.
Lusaka requires transporters, even those in transit, to have valid documents showing the origin of their rosewood logs and when they were harvested as a caution to end the smuggling of endangered tree species.
The trucks were seized as the drivers did not have documents to indicate the origin of the logs.
“We have seized over 200 trucks laden with logs because Tanzanian drivers didn’t have legal documents and transportation permits to show that the logs were indeed from the Democratic Republic of Congo as claimed,” he said.
“We will only release the trucks after they show the relevant documents.”
Mr Chali says authorities suspect the Tanzanian drivers could have used forged documents to ferry logs on the pretext that they had originated in the DRC.
Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Zambia, Mr Hassan Simba Yahya, told The Citizen that the issue will now be resolved diplomatically by the two countries.
Lorry owners have maintained that the seized vehicles came from the DRC before they were impounded by Zambian authorities.
Chuki Shaaban, Tanzania Medium and Small Truck Owners Association (TMSTOA) chairman, told The Citizen recently that the lorries were transporting the logs from the DRC to the Dar es Salaam Port.
“They were seized despite the fact that our drivers produced genuine documents showing that the logs had been transported from the DRC,” he said.
“It has now been close to two months since our lorries were impounded, but nothing has been done.”
Mr Shaaban said they had been silent about the issue with the hope that the issue would be resolved through official channels.