A Malawian court has found 23 Mozambicans guilty of illegally entering Malawi and cutting down trees in a protected area.
The group was arrested in November last year by the game rangers for Department for National Parks and Wildlife in Malawi’s Lengwe National Park, around 5km from the border with Mozambique. However, Mozambique’s state news agency claims that Malawian authorities arrested the group inside Mozambique
The rangers also seized six 4×4 tractors, a road grader, a forklift truck, a bulldozer, a 30-tonne flatbed lorry, several cars, motorbikes and chainsaws.
On 27 March, the Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate convicted 35 people – the 23 Mozambicans, 10 Malawians and two Chinese – on six counts related to illegal logging inside a Malawian national park.
The Mozambican and Chinese defendants were found guilty of entering into Malawi illegally, as well as removing trees valued at a total of $8.9 million.
In his verdict on Monday, Chief Resident Magistrate Thomson Ligowe said he convicted all the non-Malawians of illegal entry into the Malawi contrary to section 21 (1) and 37 of the Immigration ACT.
“I also found all the 35 accused persons guilty of entering into a protected area without authority country to section 32 (1) as read with section 110 (1) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act for entering into Lengwe National park without authority,” he said.
On 25 March, two days before the verdict was due, Mozambique’s state news agency AIM claimed that the Mozambicans had been arrested by the Malawian authorities while logging within Mozambique, near Doa in Tete province. It said the accused’s relatives were campaigning for their release, and claimed they were being mistreated by the Malawian authorities.
After giving the verdict on Monday, the magistrate adjourned the court sitting to 6 April when prosecutors will make submissions on how the convicts should be punished, and defence lawyers will make further representations. Sentencing will happen at a later date.
The convicts are named as: Davite Epulani, Love Maiteni, Harry Lucio, Haston Laiva, Tensi Isaac, Jonasi Chikalusa, Zakeyu Alnanza, Monza Almando, Orasi Domingo, Mateyo Simeone, Shupei Zheng, Bernardo Lucas, Jose Manuel, Xing Li, Mfumu Kidi, Kingsley Banda, Gulio Fwambauone, Simao Fortunalto, Hermenegildo Samuel, Layo Kodo, Jose Samuel Daneseni Gasni, Joao Abel, Augustine Philip, Stephano Kadendele, Mikeyasi James, Mac Niward Steven, James Timote, James Gerald, Loti Fulaiton, Tomas Agostinho, Juliao Mangira, Akimu Stephano and Justine Lauli.
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© 2017, Zitamar Ltd. Reproduction and dissemination prohibited without written permission.