By Deogratias Mmana
Transporters Association of Malawi (Tam) has reacted angrily to the tendency by Forestry Department and Malawi Police Service (MPS) of impounding vehicles when caught with illegal materials.
Tam has since described the tendency as retrogressive and counterproductive.
The reaction comes following our last week’s story about the interference by Deputy Commissioner of Police for Central Eastern Region Noel Kayira who pressed the Forestry Department to release keys of trucks that were impounded for carrying bags of charcoal.
In an interview, Tam Vice-Secretary Elliot Musa said transporters are tired and fed up with government’s habit of impounding trucks that carry illegal materials.
“If our trucks are impounded, we recommend that the authorities should deal with the drivers and not the owner of the vehicle or the vehicle itself. Let the drivers face the law.
“If, for example, the truck is impounded for carrying charcoal, let the charcoal be offloaded as court exhibit and the truck released. Otherwise, keeping the vehicle for long kills our businesses unless the driver carried the illegal stuff under the instruction of the vehicle owner,” Musa said.
Musa proposed a review of Forestry Act to allow for prosecution and incarceration without an alternative of paying a fine of drivers found with illegal materials on vehicles.
“That may slow down transportation of charcoal and other illegal materials,” he said.
Tam Executive Member Carlos Almeida whose two vehicles were impounded by Kasungu District Forestry’s officers concurred with Musa, saying truck owners are not involved in the wrongdoing of drivers.
Director of Forestry Clement Chilima said while the transporters may have a point, some of them send drivers to carry illegal materials.
He said it would be difficult for the court to ascertain whether the vehicle owner is not involved, especially where the driver bolts.
“The court would have to be convinced that vehicle owners were not aware, very difficult to know, especially where the driver escapes and if the vehicle from same owner is caught several times,” Chilima said.
He added: “The decision on whether to forfeit lies with the judge according to the law.”
According to a report dated November 10, 2021 from Kasungu District Forestry’s officer to Director of Forestry, forestry officers and four police officers impounded two vehicles belonging to Almeida Company on November 5, 2021.
The first truck, whose registration is KU 8769 with trailer registration KU 8809 was impounded for carrying 20 bags of charcoal alongside cement.
The second truck with 30 bags had registration ZA 1272 and the driver escaped after the keys were already seized by the patrol team.
The driver with 20 bags of charcoal was prosecuted and paid a fine of K100,000.
His name is Jacob Zambika, 42, of Tembwe Village in Traditional Authority Mlonjeni in Mchinji.
He answered two charges of trafficking of charcoal without licence contrary to Section 68 (3a) of Forestry Amendment Act of 2019 and being found in possession of charcoal without licence contrary to Section 68 (3a) of Forestry Amendment Act of 2019.