……….as CDEDI cautions Chakwera on reckless enforcement of forestry act

By Iommie Chiwalo

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has asked the current leadership to fix the economy as Malawians cannot breathe.

The caution comes after noting that in the event of commemorating 58 years of independence and 28 years of multiparty democracy, the current political regime, is leading in subjecting already vulnerable and marginalised Malawians through unjust social and economic laws and policies that are entrenching them into poverty further.

Chakwera at 58th Malawi’s birthday

In an Independence day celebration message, CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa says it beats human imagination that the current leadership is busy milking everyone and everything, even if it means taking away the very means of survival for the citizens, in the name of levies, taxes and fines.

“When today, Malawians were supposed to be celebrating their Independence, they have woken up to very shocking and shameful revelations that government has purportedly amended the Forestry Act of 2020, by inserting fresh penalties in the Act to criminalise charcoal burning, processing, selling and usage! The social media is awash with some pieces of the amended Act, containing some regulations that are supposedly meant to enforce preservation of the natural resources, without any iota of a human face,” says Namiwa in the statement.

He says looking at such a law, it would appear it was drafted by individuals who are not only out of touch with reality, but also had outright ulterior intentions.

“It is worth pointing out that CDEDI, just like all well-meaning and law-abiding Malawians, welcomes any effort to preserve the country’s natural resources, but not through inconsiderate means that appear like the vulnerable and marginalised Malawians just love destroying the environment, yet they are victims of situations beyond their control, and their plight is alarmingly huge,” he says.

Namiwa further said that CDEDI finds the recent purported offences, fines, and penalties under the amended Forestry Act of 2020, and the subsequent announcement of licenses that have been issued to selected charcoal dealers, as a cartel aimed at making a killing out of the plight of Malawians.

“The enforcement of such legislation means the whole country will be turned into prison cells, since only 11 percent of the population is connected to the electricity national grid. But even most of those that are connected are faced with prolonged load-shading schedules that go as far as eight hours a day, while others cannot even afford to use electricity for cooking. Alternatives to electricity are gas and solar, which do not come cheap for an ordinary citizen, either,” narrates Namiwa.

He suggests that if government really cares for the welfare of its people, it would be proper to have issued such licenses to the ordinary citizens who are surviving on charcoal burning and selling for a living.

“CDEDI believes the technology of producing this charcoal, which is environmentally-friendly, is not complicated for an average Malawian. And, indeed, this would have been the simplest way of creating the dreamt-about one million jobs.
Better still, government could have invested in alternatives of cushioning the heavily-taxed and burdened consumers, such as investing in bio-gas and energy-saving stoves, including subsidising prices of gas, solar equipment and electricity tariffs, before thinking about a law whose implementation might fuel public revolt,” he said.

While questioning the changes in the forestry Act, Namiwa feels is only a shameless attempt to intimidate and swindle Malawians.

He says given a second thought, the move smacks of a government desperately in need of revenue, but is clueless on how to create a conducive environment for the private sector to thrive and provide the much-needed revenue for the nation.

“It is against this background that CDEDI is challenging the Tonse Alliance administration to put aside the laughable measures and concentrate on creating alternatives to wanton cutting down of trees for charcoal burning.
Otherwise, the enforcement of the so-called amended Forestry Act of 2020, is a recipe for lawlessness,”

The ammended forestry Act of 2020 is prohibiting even possession of charcoal and has given charcoal manufacturers licence to rich people who are selling the products in shopping malls at an exorbitant price.

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