About 15 people died in Nsanje in 2015 due to canoe capsizing, however no canoe operator faced the arm of the law, Malawi News Agency can reveal.
According to sources at Nsanje Police confided to this reporter that the district reported almost four canoe accidents in the Shire river last year, but no canoe operator was arrested and charged.
The sources said the police could not enforce any law on the operators as the Malawi’s Inland Shipping Waters Act under the laws of Malawi is silent on the offenses and penalties of any crime the canoe operator can face if his or her canoe kills passengers.
“Last year about four canoe accidents occurred in different places such as Tengani, Marka, Ngabu and Malemia in Nsanje and killed about 15 people in the process. Most of the accidents happened because the canoes were overloaded but also carelessness of the operators. However, we did not arrest any as the laws of Malawi give no clarification on canoes.
“Therefore, the police enforce the law and when the law does not permit us arrests, then our hands are tied up. I think something has to be done to our laws particularly that of Inland Shipping Waters Act. If nothing is done, canoe operators who are careless and kills people will still be scorch free,” said one of the sources.
Nsanje Police Marine Inspector Peter Kaphagawani admitted that under the current Malawi Laws ‘Inland Shipping Waters Act, Chapter 71:01’ is silent on the canoes as it only recognizes vessels including wooden boats.
Marine Inspector Kaphagawani said canoe operators cannot be arrested and being charged once they have caused accidents and in particular killing passengers in the process as the current Act is not permitting them to do so.
“It is true that last year we reported about four canoe accidents in Nsanje district and about 15 people were killed in the process. However, no canoe operator was arrested and charged. The current Act does not give us powers to arrest and charge. The Act only highlights offences and penalties of vessels and wooden boats operating on the waters of Malawi,” he explained.
The Nsanje Marine Inspector said the only thing to address the issue is to amend the Act so that it includes canoes.
“As it is people or canoe passengers are not protected by the laws of Malawi. Canoe operators will still be not prosecuted if the Act remains as it is. It is high time that the Act be amended so that canoe operators who cause accidents should be punished and reduce these fatal accidents in Malawi waters specifically in Nsanje,” said Marine Inspector Kaphagawani.
Upon hearing that canoe operators would still be scorch free after being involved in fatal accidents as the laws of Malawi are silent on that, one of the concerned people Gizex Gizai said it is high time the Act be amended so that it can be in line with the current situation so that people can be protected.
Gizai further said more lives are being lost due to negligence on the part of the canoe owners and operators.
He said: “Most of the canoe operators are very young who cannot make informed decisions when something is likely to happen. This results in accidents. Had it been that there was a law that addresses such issues, then we could not have been facing these challenges.”
He therefore appealed to the authorities to amend the Act to accommodate issues relating to canoes.–ManaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :