THE AFTERMATH OF CHARCOAL CORRUPTION

Deputy Police PRO Harry Namwaza

  • 36 police officers dealt internally, and no corruption charge levelled against them 
  • Forestry department interdicts two officers
  • MRA, DRTSS yet to respond to our calls
  • Alternative sources of energy at snail’s pace

BY PIJ INVESTIGATIONS

Malawi Police Service (MPS) is finding it difficult to arrest police officers who were involved in an undercover expose which Weekend Nation and Platform for Investigative Journalism published on January 20, 2021.

During the nine months-long investigations, this journalist recorded footage of police between Zalewa Road Block and Kameza Round About receiving money to allow charcoal transporters to transport charcoal from Neno district to nine various markets in the commercial city.   

Police say they have been conducting their investigations in the southern region where an undercover operation took place. Among other things, they met the journalist who did the story.

Two years and six months down the line, police have identified 36 police officers which they will be dealt with internally claiming the information they gathered is not enough to be charged with corruption cases and they cannot arrest those 36 police officers.

“They have been dealt with internally,” said deputy police publicist Harry Namwaza.

Explaining exactly what has been done to the officers, Namwaza said those 36 police officers have been charged with a case of neglect of duty which is against the police act.

Our sources within the police said told us that during the police investigation, they found out that some police officers who were not on duty were seen on the roads working without registering their names in the log book.

“Even others who were on duty, their names were missing if indeed they reported for duties during your investigation another issue which was a problem,” he said.

However, Namwaza said it was recommended that those police officers involved should appear before the National Police Discipline where a charge of neglect of duty is levelled against them.

“This is not a small charge because one can lose his/her job if found guilty,” lamented Namwaza.

Namwaza refused to give us the names of those 36 officers saying their names are not ready for media.

He said police have decided to deal with the officers internally due to the evidence gathered during their investigation which followed after we released the story.

“Who alleges must prove and this is a must. Giving them a corruption charge is a bit difficult because corruption involves two parties the one giving and the receiver. So, witnesses should be ready to go to court to testify in court,” he said.  

He did not indicate when those 36 police officers will appear before National Police Discipline.

Forestry Department:

Apart from the police, the story also presented evidence of how forestry officials helped smugglers to transport charcoal to Blantyre. In the story, this journalist bribed officials at the department of forestry to help him transport charcoal.

Deputy Director of forestry responsible for law enforcement issues Teddie Kamoto said the evidence which we published was clear and they have interdicted two senior officers.

“These two are from our Blantyre office and we interdicted them immediately. We reported the matter to Anti-Corruption Bureau and we are waiting to be updated by them on what has been done,” he said.

“I need also to indicate that after you published that story, we conducted our investigation and we verified the information that they were involved,” he added indicating that these officers are no longer working with the forestry department.

MRA, DRTSS, and ACB:

We contacted spokesperson for Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Wilma Chalulu and spokesperson for the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services Angellina Makwecha. Both departments said they need time to respond to our questions.

It is the same case with Egrita Ndala spokesperson for ACB who requested for more time to give us an update on two forestry officials who have been interdicted.

ACB also conducted their investigation upon releasing the story after the then minister of natural resources and climate change minister Nancy Tembo requested them to investigate our findings.

Progress on alternative sources of energy:

Charcoal production and marketing are wiping out at least 30 000 hectares of forest cover in Malawi every year.

Malawi’s position as one of the least electrified countries globally at just 11 percent nationally—with 42 percent of the urban people having access and just four percent of rural dwellers connected—has pushed charcoal to become the primary source of fuel for 54 percent of urban households.

Across rural Malawi, households continue to rely almost exclusively on firewood. Meanwhile, alternative cooking and heating fuels remain underdeveloped, with less than one percent of Malawian households using any alternative to firewood, charcoal, or electricity for cooking and heating.

What is government doing to make sure that we have alternative sources of energy? Kamoto says government has done a list of alternatives but what is remaining is the accessibility of those alternatives.

He said one thing they have considered is sustainable charcoal where his department has issued eight licenses to companies and organisations that are producing sustainable charcoal.

These companies are only in four districts—two in Mzuzu, in Lilongwe four companies, one in Chikwawa, and the last one in Mchinji. Kamoto agreed that this is not enough to serve a country with an 18 million-plus population.

“Yes, this is not enough so we are trying to give out licenses as many as possible. Our plan is to at least give out two licenses per district,” he said.

“The process for one to make an application is simple, if you think you have trees, then you can make an application so that we advise them how best they can do it. The process to award an applicant a license cannot take us more than a month,” he added.

Kamoto said a second alternative is to come up with wooden briquettes and charcoal pellets which are being produced by Raiply.  

“We have also issued licenses to three people who are producing. We have mobilized people in Area 25, Kawale, and other areas who are forming groups. We don’t want Raiply to be selling these briquettes but instead, we should involve people who will be selling. We are still trying to come up with a better working arrangement,” he said. Kamoto said he strongly believes that a solution should be gas but the problem is availability and also not reliable a thing they are working.