By Robert Tapfumaneyi
AUTHORITIES in the Masvingo Rural District Council (MRDC) have criminalised the picking of wild fruit from the province’s forests without a permit.
Anyone found guilty will be liable to a fine or one month in imprisonment.
This according to a new by-law gazetted Friday in consultation with the Forestry Commission.
In terms of the Communal Forest Produce Act, Council shall be notified upon payment of a prescribed fee and maintain a record of people or entities involved in the picking, collection or harvesting of fruit or other forest produce for sale in the council area.
“Any person who fails to give a notification to the council shall be guilty of an offence and liable to fine not exceeding level 2 or imprisonment not exceeding one month or such fine and imprisonment,” reads the new bylaw.
“Council shall impose restrictions on the picking, harvesting of fruits or forest produce for commercial purposes if council finds it desirable to do so to conserve the environment.
“Any person who fails to abide by the imposed restriction shall have committed an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or such fine and imprisonment.”
MRDC went on to say no person should harvest non-timber forest produce prematurely.
Any person who harvests, collects or picks fruits without, a harvesting permit issued by council and who harvests non timber forest produce prematurely shall have committed an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 4 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or such a fine and imprisonment.
The drought prone Masvingo province is popular with mazhanje, matamba and matohwe among others and hard-pressed villagers often frequent the Harare-Beitbridge highway selling these wild fruits to travellers to earn a living.