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High Court orders release of detained maize truck

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The High Court in Mzuzu has ordered that a Zambian truck that was detained at Nqocha Border Post at Jenda in Mzimba on suspicion that it was exporting maize be immediately released.

High Court Judge Esme Chombo, sitting as a visiting judge at Mzuzu High Court, has also called for a judicial review into the decision by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to detain in-transit maize basing on domestic laws.

The truck, registration numbers T416DFJ/T140DGB, belongs to Premier Harvest Investments Limited, a Zambian owned conglomerate whose core business is to buy and sell farm produce such as maize.

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“Leave to move for judicial review be and is hereby granted against the decision of the respondent [MRA] detaining motor vehicle registration numbers T416DFJ/T140DGB, full of maize, that is merely passing through the jurisdiction of Malawi from the Republic of Zambia to the Republic of Kenya.

“For avoidance of doubt, the said motor vehicle must be released to the applicant, its agents or servants forthwith, to proceed with its trip through the jurisdiction of Malawi,” the order reads.

Court documents Malawi News has seen indicate that the truck, which carried maize whose buyers were Pemba Milling of Kenya, was detained verbally by MRA officials.

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“At Mqocha Border Post, the respondent [MRA] issued verbal instructions to the manager of the border post not to allow the truck proceed with its trip, on the basis that Malawi does not allow exportation of maize without a permit,” the court documents read.

But, in his argument, legal counsel for Premier Harvest Investments, George Kadzipatike, argued that MRA misunderstood its duty and export regulations on maize in Malawi.

The Zambian company, he said, was treated unfairly, unreasonably, illegally and unconstitutionally and that MRA’s action was in violation of article 5 of the Southern African Development Community treaty to which Malawi is party.

In her determination, Chombo ordered the release of the vehicle and the maize and that it should proceed with its trip through Malawi.

When contacted, MRA spokesperson, Steven Kapoloma, said the tax collecting body has complied with the court’s decision and that the truck has been released.

In March, President Peter Mutharika reinforced security in the country’s border areas, following the impounding of 31 trucks loaded with white maize in Chitipa and Karonga districts.

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