Government sued for contempt
A group of Malawians has dragged to court Director of Forestry Clement Chilima and Raiply Malawi Limited’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Krishna Das for contempt of court.
Supreme Court judge, Dustin Mwaungulu, has since set December 6 for hearing to decide on the application of leave by the aggrieved party at the Blantyre Registry, lawyer for the plaintiffs, George Kadzipatike, has confirmed.
Sophilet Chirwa and others are accusing th government and the company of failing to abide by a consent order granted by the High Court in Mzuzu on June 27 2016, permitting them to log timber from Chikangawa Forest.
Early in 2016, the Department of Forestry granted a permit to Chirwa and friends to harvest timber under the government’s concession but were later intercepted and arrested by Raiply officials, who claimed to be owners of the concession.
After hearing the case, the First Grade Magistrate Court in Mzimba acquitted the timber millers, thereby granting them freedom to continue with activities in the forest.
But Raiply joined forces with the Department of Forestry in obtaining an order of injunction against Chirwa and colleagues and further appealed against their acquittal at the High Court in Mzuzu.
In his determination, judge Dingiswayo Madise on November 25 gave a 21-day sawing consent to Chirwa and eight others, who had made upfront payment to the government before their arrest, to clear the remaining tree logs.
But the order was subsequently followed by a directive to the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) that called for disregard to such court orders.
“We were about to commence contempt of court proceedings when the MDF stopped my clients from operating, but we then went into discussions with government for an out of court settlement and we signed a consent order on the same,” said Kadzipatike over the weekend.
He, however, said, to the dismay of his clients, Raiply and the government— through the Department of Forestry— have failed to abide by the consent order; hence, the decision to drag them back to court for contempt.
Kadzipatike said his clients made upfront payment of over K100 million and, according to the order, they were at liberty to collect logs within three months as well as to be granted an extension period for settling the balances.
“The appellants have clearly delayed the delivery of the logs, the alleged contemnors have flatly refused to extend time for the applicants to pay, they have jointly resolved to openly defy Clause 9 of the Consent Order. I pray that it should please this honourable court to grant leave for committal of the said contemnors to prison for contempt of court,” reads the summons in part.
When called for comment Raiply’s CEO Krishna Das could not pick his mobile phone but director Chilima said his department delivered logs to the applicant’s commensurate with the money that they paid.
He added that Chikangawa Forest has of late been heavily depleted, such that there are no more logs to be sold out to individuals.
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