Robert Patrick Phiri a third convict in a case where three people were accused of axing trees in Dzalanyama Forest Reserve has forcefully donated a 10 tonner lorry to the Malawi government after Senior Resident Magistrate Clemence Chamwenda sitting in Dedza ordered the forfeiture of the vehicle which was used to transport illegally obtained logs. The forfeiture of the lorry is in line with section 74 of the Forestry (Amendment) Act.
Phiri was also charged with trafficking of forest produce without licence contrary to section 68(1)(c) as read with section 12 of the Forestry (Amendment) Act of 2019 and ordered to pay 200, 000 kwacha fine or be jailed for 2 years.
Third convict Charles Gwande was accused of conniving with another person to destroy trees in the forest reserve contrary to section 64(1)(6) of the Forestry (Amendment) Act of 2019 and ordered to pay a fine of 300,000 kwacha or in default serve 2 years and 6 months in jail.
The more consequential punishment was meted out to second convict Chilungamo Gasiteni who was accused of destroying trees in the forest reserve without authority contrary to section 64(1)(a) of the Forestry (Amendment) Act of 2019 and was ordered to pay 200,000 kwacha for each of the counts or in default serve 3 years imprisonment on each count to run concurrently.
The trio could be among early beneficiaries of the new law which carries tough penalties unlike the old one.
Projects Lead at Movement for Environmental Action Innocent Sandram has welcomed court punishment.
“ This is good news. Signs are now apparent that the voices are heard” said Sandram. He added: " Dzalanyama is a catchment for Lilongwe Water Board and therefore we need to put this nonsense to a stop, this is why I think the court's decision is timely".
Malawi loses nearly 30,000 hectares of forests annually.
In 2016, Malawi made a very ambitious pledge to restore 4.5 million hectares of degraded forests under the Bonn Challenge Initiative and the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFRI 100) which seeks to restore 150 million of degraded and deforested land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.