Police in Malawi’s northern city of Mzuzu in conjunction with Forestry officials have arrested 44 foreigners mainly Tanzanians and Somalians in an operation meant to rid the 53 000 hectare Viphya Plantation of illegal operators.
The law enforcers have also confiscated four trucks loaded with planks and machines.
Mzuzu Police Station Public Relations Officer Maurice Chapola expressed ignorance on the development but Nyasa Times was able to confirm the arrests with other Police sources.
The development comes barely two weeks after Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jane Chilunga blamed locals for bringing in foreigners in the plantation, whom she accused of decimating the forest.
The Minister made the remarks during the official launch of the Green-Week campaign on January 28th2013. The week was aimed at raising awareness and rehabilitation of the Chikangawa forest.
Youth and Society replanted 20,000 trees covering 15.2 hectares.
Chilunga also said government will enact a law that would bar foreigners from the plantation. Malawi Parliament began deliberations on Monday.
Coincidently, last week Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Isaac Maluwa disclosed during a public debate held in Mzuzu that the establishment had received reports that there were illegal immigrants in the plantation.
Maluwa, who is also Northern Region Police Operations Officer, said the presence of illegal immigrants was a security risk. He did not elaborate.
“Because of unpatriotic Malawians…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,” he said.