There was drama at Isoka in Zambia on Friday when officials from Malawi’s Chitipa District Council and their counterparts in Isoka District pointed fingers at each for promoting intermarriages of girls below the age of 18.
This was during an interdepartmental meeting between officials from the two districts.
Chitipa First Grade Magistrate Billy Ngosi was the one who started the debate when he informed officials in the sister district that the marriage law for girls in Malawi has now changed from 16 to 18 years.
He warned that with this change, Zambian men must be watchful to avoid facing a jail term in Malawi.
“We observed that some of Zambian citizens in Isoka are marrying off Malawian girls below the age of 18. We, therefore, advise you to refrain from the practice to avoid facing the Malawian law,” Ngosi said.
But Isoka District Commissioner (DC) Evenwell Mtambo expressed surprise over the warning, arguing that many men from Chitipa are intermarrying underage girls in Zambia.
“In our country, a girl child is below the age of 20. Therefore, do not attempt to cross over your borders in search for such girls; you will not like us,” Mtambo said.
He also advised Malawian men to refrain from crossing the boundary in search for girls in Zambia who are under the legal marriage age.
It was also observed that Zambians, especially from Katabwanga and Chindilo villages in Mafinga District are cultivating in Malawi’s Jembya Forest.
The Malawi delegates, therefore, advised their counterparts to civic educate their citizens to stop the encroachment.
At the end of the gathering, the delegates went for a tree planting exercise around Isoka Boma.
Malawi and Zambia are neighbouring countries, and people of the two countries interact in many ways such as in trade, education as well as in healthcare services.
Historically, the two countries were bonded by the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and they used the same currency as well as text books in their education curriculum before their independence.