Malawi Police in Karonga the northern part of Malawi on Friday confiscated a 40 horse power Tanzanian engine boat which was illegally transporting assorted goods from the country to the neighbouring Tanzania and arrested 16 people.
Confirming the development, Karonga Police Station Officer Roderick Mpeta said the incident occurred in the early hours of Friday at Mufwa Lodge along the Lake Malawi Tanzania calls Lake Nyasa, which is potentially rich in oil and gas, after a tip off by some well-wishers.
According to Mpeta, out of 16 arrested 13 are Tanzanian nationals while 3 are Malawians.
“We have indeed impounded a Tanzanian boat and arrest 16 people in the process who were trying to illegally transport goods from Malawi to Tanzania.
“Some of the items found imposes include 11 cows, 16 cartons of liquor sachets, 93 iron sheets, 110 government mosquito nets, assorted medical drugs like amoxicillin, quinine as well as malaria drugs (RA) among others,” said Mpeta.
He said that the suspects will appear before the court soon to answer the charges of exporting goods without business license which is contrary to section 329 and 3 of the penal code.
Mpeta could not disclose the identities of the suspects who have been arrested, saying it can affect their investigations.
Cargo ships provocation
Meanwhile, President John Magufuli government is deploying three ships on Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa, despite an ongoing territorial dispute with Malawi over the lake, the deployment could jeopardise the mediation process.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Rejoice Chaponda said Malawi government is “not aware” of the plans by Tanzania to deploy ships on Lake Malawi, saying they demand answers.
Malawi, which lies to the west of Africa’s third largest lake, claims to own the entire lake, while Tanzania, to the east, maintains it owns half of the northern area — following a simmering animosity between the two countries.
The East African reported that the multipurpose ship will have a capacity for carrying 350 tonnes of cargo and 193 passengers will start operating on Lake Malawi in August this year, quoting Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA).
The other two cargo barges with a capacity to carry 1,300 tonnes of cargo each, will be constructed and commissioned between August and October 2017.
“Malawi could be angered by the move, “ orbserved senior lecturer at the Institute of Finance Management Abdallah Saqware.
But he said Tanzania is deploying ships because “it believes half of the lake belongs to it.”
Malawi President Peter Mutharika put his foot down that the entire lake is owned by Malawi, saying there is no need to negotiate the issue.
Mutharika – a law professor who also taught law in Tanzania – told a meeting of former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano and former president of Botswana Festus Mogae, who are members of Forum of Former African Heads of State and Government mediating in the Lake Malawi border dispute with neighbouring Tanzania, that whole lake belongs to Malawi emphasizing that not even an inch belongs to Tanzania.
“My position has not changed,” said President Mutharika.
Malawi government previously hinted that if not resolved, it will got to International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Mutharika’s legal opinion also gives Malawi impetus to push the case to the ICJ if current mediation efforts by the Forum of Former Heads of State and Government fail.
Revered British judge Professor Rosalyn Higgins, QC, former ICJ head also gave a legal opinion which concludes that Malawi owns the entire lake. –Additional reporting by Judith Moyo, Nyasa TimesFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :