Court in the border district of Mchinji has convicted and sentenced a 44-year-old man to 116 years imprisonment with hard labour on human trafficking charges but he will only spend 12 years in jail.
Stanley Matiya was answering eight counts of trafficking in persons contrary to Section 14(1) and three counts for trafficking young children, contrary to Section 15(1) of the Trafficking in Persons Act, for trafficking 11 people from Lilongwe to Mozambique.
According to Mchinji Police deputy spokesperson, Rome Chauluka, the court sentenced Matiya to 10 years imprisonment for each count of trafficking in persons and 12 years imprisonment for each count of trafficking in children and the sentences are to run concurrently.
The victims include eight adults and three young children, who were being moved from Lilongwe to Mozambique for casual labour in tobacco farms.
Chauluka said the court heard from police prosecutor Dave Kusamale that Matiya, who resides in Mozambique, together with suspected accomplice Jentala Kamwendo were found moving the victims on September 28 this year.
The victims were from villages under traditional authorities Mazengera and Kalumbu in Lilongwe.
“Upon conviction, Kusamale told the court that, despite the convict being a first offender, an immediate custodial sentence would be appropriate as the offences committed are serious in nature,” Chauluka said.
The Trafficking in Persons Act prescribes a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment and 21 years imprisonment if one is found guilty of the offences of trafficking in persons and children, respectively.
“The prosecutor further told the court that the convict took advantage of the financial misfortunes of the victims, hence planned to commit the offence and the victims were subjected to starvation since they were left without food and had to starve in the hot sun,” he said.
Chauluka said the First Grade Magistrate Rodwell Meja Phiri agreed with the State that the convict deserved a custodial sentence to deter would-be offenders.
While commending the court and other stakeholders for stepping up efforts in trying to curb human trafficking, Coordinator of Malawi Network Against Trafficking in Persons (MNAT) Maxwell Matewere called for stiffer punishment as a 12 year sentence is lenient.
Matewere said considering that the case involved three minors, whose trafficking attracts the maximum sentence of up to 21-years, the court should have gone for the maximum sentence.
“They should also consider confiscating his property and bank accounts and use the money to compensate the victims because they suffered a lot and the issue of compensation is highlighted in the Act,” Matewere said.
Matiya is from Siniya Village, Traditional Authority Mazengera, in Lilongwe and his accomplice Kamwendo is still at large.