The Malawi Police Service says the 53,000 hectare man made Viphya Plantation in Mzimba district is a heaven for crime.
“So many assault cases, increasing murder, rampant alcohol and drug abuse and prostitution just to cite a few,” Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Isaac Maluwa said.
Raiply Malawi Limited is operating 20,000 hectare under a concession while the Malawi government has the rest.
Maluwa, who is also Northern Region Police Operations Officer, said this in Mzuzu at the St John of God Hall in his contribution during a public debate the Youth and Society organized.
The debate held under the topic ‘Has Malawi benefited from the Viphya Plantation Project’ marked the official closure of the Green-Week campaign which was aimed at raising awareness and rehabilitation of the Viphya Plantation.Youth and Society replanted 20,000 trees covering 15.2 hectares.
“Because of unpatriotic Malawians we have received reports that they are many foreigners taking part in the harvesting of trees in the Plantation. How they get permits, we don’t know. They have taken advantage of our lack of patriotism,” Maluwa said.
He also said the presence of many illegal immigrants in the Plantation poses a security threat to Malawi.
Mzuzu University Faculty of Environmental Sciences lecturer Elisha Ngulube said it is difficult to gauge how the Plantation has benefited Malawi because no substantive study has been done.
“What we can do is speculate basing on what we see or hear. When you drive around you actually see houses with iron sheets may be that would be an indication of some people benefiting,” Ngulube said.
He said at national level peoples’ lives may have changed saying some might have graduated from one poverty level to another,
Ngulube said the best option was for government to engage in a Public Private Partnership in the management of the 33,000 hectares saying that can be one way the country could benefit from the Plantation.
While Viphya Plantations Manager Eric Zangazanga said the Plantation has contributed a lot of revenue but that “ it has been difficult for government to plough back resources to the Plantation for its rehabilitation. Over the years they have been very little replanting but so much cutting.”
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) Publicity Secretary Dan Msowoya, who was also on the panel, said the Viphya Plantation is a highly politicized venture that seem to have lost its original objective.
“He said it is irresponsible of those in government that they are unable to see the imminent danger,” Msowoya said.
Gender and Social Activist Emily Mkamanga said if the Plantation had benefited Malawi then “we wouldn’t be having plastic chairs in our classrooms”
Mkamanga said the fact that people burn the Plantation now and then means that they have not benefited.
Last year, Mzimba District Commissioner Reverend Moses Chimphepo concern that sexual activities currently the order of the day within Viphya Plantation could be impacting efforts to combat the spread of HIV in the area.
Brothels have been erected within the Viphya Plantation which men and women, especially those in the timber businesses, use to buy and sell sex.
Some sexually starved men, who are usually away from their marital homes for long periods, stand in queues for their turn to have sex with the women whose job is to meet the needs of the men.
It is reported that on a good weekend, especially if the weekend coincides with a payday, some sex workers make up to over K50, 000 (about US$167) in a night in a country where the majority make less than a dollar a day.
Chimphepo said: “The behaviour is derailing efforts in the fight against the HIV pandemic. People queue for sex in these brothels and usually it’s raw sex.”
Traditional Authority Kampingo Sibande whose Viphya plantation is under his jurisdiction also expressed fear that the sexual activities in forest will paralyze efforts in the fight against HIVFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :