Court fines 3 with K2.6m for charcoal smuggling in Mzuzu

Mzuzu Senior Resident Magistrate’s court on Tuesday convicted three people and sentenced them to 24 months imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) or in default pay K2.6 million for charcoal smuggling.

The three, Francis Thawe, 33, Ellita Mseteka, 54, and Vestina Banda had earlier pleaded guilty to the offence.

Thawe was recently arrested at Mchengautuba Police checkpoint where he was found with several bags of charcoal in his minibus. On the other hand, Mseteka and Jere—the owners of the charcoal—were arrested at the court when they tried to follow up the issue.

Some of the confiscated charcoal.-Photo by Taonga Nyirenda, Mana

Appearing before Senior Resident Magistrate Geoffrey Nyirenda, the three pleaded guilty to the charge of trafficking forest produce with a license and, in addition, Thawe further pleaded guilty to the charge of using an uninsured motor vehicle.

In his submissions, state prosecutor, sub-inspector Felix Senzani, asked the court to give the convicts a stiffer punishment to deter others saying what they did contributed to massive deforestation which the country is presently experiencing.

In mitigation, the three said they were first time offenders and pledged they would not contravene the law again.

But magistrate Nyirenda quashed their defence saying smuggling of forest produce and driving a motor vehicle without valid documents were offences that have become rampant in the country and, as such, deserved no mercy.

Thawe was found guilty on four counts of charcoal trafficking without license to which he was ordered to pay K400,000 fine or in default serve 24 months IHL; being found in possession of charcoal without a license to which he was ordered to pay a K400,000 fine or in default serve 24 months IHL; using an uninsured motor vehicle in respect of third party risks and was fined K100,000 or in default serve 12 months IHL and driving motor vehicle without valid documents to which he was asked to pay a K100,000 fine or in default serve 12 months IHL.

Mseteka and Jere were fined K1. 6 million or in default serve 24 months IHL.

Thawe hails from Wadosoka Village in the area of Traditional Authority Kabunduli in Nkhata Bay District. Mseteka hails from Kaonoka Mseteka village in the area of Traditional Authority Chindi, in Mzimba District, while Jere hails from Chivina village in the area of Traditional Authority M’nyanja in Kasungu district.

The three have not been able to pay the fine yet.

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Banda
Banda
9 months ago

The magistrate will go home to his electrified home and cook on his stove top. Yet the majority will be using charcoal. Majority of Malawians have charcoal in their homes are you suggesting each one is subject to a fine of 400,000 kW for not having a license? Malawi needs to electrify all areas until then they will need charcoal or wood to cook. Better sentence would be to sentence to community service by planting and caring for trees.

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