Malawi Government has released 15 of the 20 Zambians arrested and imprisoned some three weeks ago for illegally entering the country and settling in Kasungu National Park.
The Malawian authorities arrested 28 Zambians for the offence which is contrary to the Parks and Wildlife Acts sections 32, 33, 35 and 36 of the Republic of Malawi.
However, the Kasungu Magistrate Court ordered 20 of the accused to pay K45 000 each or serve three and half years in imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) and slapped the other eight with suspended sentences.
The 20 Zambians failed to pay the said amount and had started serving their sentences until this week when they were rescued by their relatives and are back home in eastern Zambian district of Chipata.
Chief Chanje of Chipata District in whose area the convicts come from told Times of Zambia his 15 subjects returned home this week.
According to the traditional leader, some relatives of the imprisoned Zambians, whose ages ranged from 17 to 54, sold their cattle and farm produce to pay the fines charged by the Malawian court
He said some well-wishers from Zambian capital Lusaka had also shown interest to assist the remaining five Zambians still in prison in Kasungu.
However, Chief Chanje challenged Zambian and Malawian governments to quickly find an amicable solution to cross-border matters that were affecting people from both countries.
The chief alleged that Zambians usually faced problems in trading in Malawi, while Malawians come into Zambia and conduct their business without being harassed.
The Zambians were arrested during an operation Malawian officials from the Parks and Wildlife conducted on the western part of Kasungu National Park which boarders Zambia and is prone to high-level encroachment and poaching.
When the Malawian officials arrived at a place called Mtenthe in the park they discovered that the Zambians had settled and were busy cutting down trees with an aim of picking caterpillars locally known as Matondo.
According to Kasungu National Park Law Enforcement Supervisor, Ndaona Kumanga, five of the Zambians were charged with illegal settlement while 23 were answering to various charges.
The charges included illegal entry into a protected area, residing in a protected area without permission, cultivating in a protected area without permit, illegal taking and destruction of trees in a protected area and also conveying offensive weapons into the park.
The magistrates said they had given the 20 illegal settlers a stiffer punishment to act as warning to would-be offenders because the people were depriving the country of its tourism resources.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :