By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
LILONGWE : A court in Malawi last week sentenced a 44-year-old Angolan man found with litres of cocaine to five years in imprisonment with hard labour , in a bid to jolt scores of drug traffickers who have for a long time viewed Malawi as an easy transit for drugs.
Joad Matateu Manuel who is based in Luanda was arrested at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe as he was about to board Kenya Airways en-route to Nairobi on his way to Venezuela.
The police had been tipped about his possible move to traffic drugs and upon being searched the police found bottles of body lotion whose inside were visible male condoms containing liquid and when experts from the National Quality Control Laboratory checked the liquid contained cocaine weighing 2.1 litres in total.
Lilongwe Senior Magistrate Shyreen Yona in his ruling stated that he had given Manuel a five year custodial sentence because he properly planned the offence by successfully concealing the cocaine.
“Another thing I have given this convict a custodial sentence is to deter people from using Malawi as a transit for dangerous drugs. By passing an immediate custodial sentence the world and would be offenders should know that Malawi is indeed fighting drug crimes,” he said.
Yona said it is a fact that the traffickers have money so ordering them to pay fine would not hold water as it will be nothing to them.
Police Spokesperson for KIA, Sgt. Sapulain Chitonde said Manuel through his lawyers, pleaded for a suspended sentence saying he could not understand any language apart from Portuguese and that he suffers from hypertension and custodial sentence would do more harm to him.
But the state said Malawi prisons were already keeping convicts with language barriers like Manuel and that the Angolan case would not be unusual.
On health services, the state said there was fully fledged health facility at Maula Prison where the Angolan would be confined to serve his jail term and that the facility would take care of Manuel’s hypertension problem.
The drug was forfeited and destroyed right at the court, according to the police spokesperson, and after serving his sentence, the convict will be deported to his country and he will also be declared a prohibited immigrant in line with section 4 of the Immigration Act.
The sentencing comes barely a month when a 43-year-old Nigerian, Christian Osingwelen, was arrested with two Malawian ladies for drug trafficking.
They were arrested at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe for illegal possession and importation of the dangerous drug called Ephedrine contrary to section 11 (a) Regulation 19 of Dangerous Drug Act.
In January, this year, the police apprehended a woman who attempted to smuggle illicit drugs in Lilongwe.
Not only is Malawi a transit route for illicit drugs across the continent and the world at large, but Malawians themselves are involved in the illegal trade.
Young people are used as middle-men, obviously to conceal the identity of the figures behind the sale of chamba in most entertainment joints in town.
Meanwhile the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in April this year signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Crime Prevention and Drug Control. The Memorandum guides cooperation between SADC and UNODC on professional training, provision of expertise and technical assistance with regard to crime prevention and drug control initiatives in all SADC Member States.