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Reserve Bank of Malawi, Malawi Police Service tough on banknotes

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By Peter Kanjere & Faith Kamtambe:

If you are fond of throwing banknotes in the air or stepping on them during public events, such as weddings, you better stop as police have started arresting those who are involved in such showy tendencies.

In the latest incident, Central Region Police on Saturday arrested four men for damaging banknotes in a move that is meant to enforce Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) regulations and end an annual loss of K10.5 billion in banknotes replacements.

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Central Region Police assistant publicist, Patrick Kasauka, confirmed the arrest of Fabiano Kachepa, aged 30, Lumbani Nyasulu, 36, Dastain Maluwaya, 63, and Makalani Elisa, 25, at a wedding ceremony at Maziko Garden in Area 47 in Lilongwe.

“They were seen dancing and stepping on banknotes and damaged the notes in the process. The police, who were strategically present at the place, arrested the four instantly and charged them in line with Section 23(2) of the Reserve Bank of Malawi Act [and Section 376 of the Penal Code] which prohibits any person from willfully defacing, soiling or damaging bank currency,” Kasauka said.

The arrests have happened amid RBM’s sensitisation campaigns, warning people to avoid stepping on banknotes during weddings, bridal showers and all events.

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“Currently, the Reserve Bank of Malawi is rolling out a campaign to arrest any person found violating this law,” Kasauka said about the suspects who are on bail and will appear in court soon.

Malawi Police Service spokesperson, James Kadadzela, Tuesday refused to respond to a question on penalties for such offences, but simply confirmed to have joined hands with RBM in enforcing the law. Such offences are treated as a misdemeanour.

RBM spokesperson, Mbane Ngwira, yesterday said the police were simply enforcing the Act and Penal Code which have always been there.

“We started sensitisation programmes covering all stakeholders such as MCs [Master of Ceremonies] on how to handle bank notes. We have even produced a video of a mock wedding to sensitise the public because it costs us K10.5 billion to replace worn out bank notes per year. We want to reduce such costs,” Ngwira said.

However, one of the top MCs, Deus Sandram, said while the police are simply following the law, RBM should do more sensitisation campaigns.

“During weddings, we may announce that it is illegal to step on banknotes but if the citizenry do not appreciate the rationale behind this, it is difficult for MCs to control a big crowd. At the moment, arresting people may not be the solution,” Sandram said.

Last December, RBM Governor, Dalitso Kabambe, said K20, K50 and K100 notes are the worst affected and are being replaced every quarter.

The Penal Code stipulates that any person who melts down, breaks up, defaces by stamping thereon any name, word or mark, or uses otherwise than as currency any coin current for the time being in Malawi, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

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