LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Ministry of Natural Resources through the Department of Forestry is reportedly having troubles taking legal action against individuals and companies owing government MK640 million for harvesting trees in Viphya Plantations popularly known as Chikangawa Forest since 2012, Maravi Post has learnt.
This comes barely two months after the department issued a 30-day deadline in October this year that all debtors settle their debts or face legal action.
Amongst the debtors is Mulli Brothers Limited who owes the department MK53 million in unpaid bills for harvesting the trees in the plantation but has been refusing to settle the Chikangawa bills.
Mulli is also linked to the infamous tractorgate and now-sold Malawi Savings Bank (MSB)’s bad debts where his company owned the bank over MK3 billion.
But two month after issuing the warning statement, the department has not taken any legal action on debt defaulters. This is so despite Parliamentary Committee for Natural Resource pressing government hard to recover the money from companies and individuals. The committee has since slated January 24, 2017 to meet the department to get feedback on the matter and all issues surrounding the plantation deals with the aim of appraising the public.
Sangwani Phiri, Environmental and Climate Change Management Spokesperson told the Maravi Post that his office was consolidating reports for easy follow up of all defaulters.
Phiri disclosed that the debt files are in the hands of Attorney General Chambers who will track down all those dogging to pay the bills.
“The department cannot give you a concise figure, the accounts section has been asked to come up with a list of those who finished paying their debts, those who are still paying and another list of those who are up to now refusing to have incurred any debt with us”, said Phiri.
The department has as of late deployed the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) soldiers to bring order to the closed Viphya Plantation for off-season till April 2017.
The Viphya Plantation is currently managed by three groups including Companies through concessions; Raiply which has 25,000 hectors, Total Land Care (TLC) of about 12,000 ha. And the Government through the Department of Forestry with less than 1000 ha of standing harvestable trees around their offices at Chikangawa, Lusangazi. Maravi Post has noted that Timber Millers Cooperative Limited which was given 10,000 ha has no standing trees which can be harvested.
There are also pockets of the plantation which are jointly managed by forestry department, FRIM, Raiply and TL Timbers. It is also worth mentioning that Total Land Care (TLC), Limbe Leaf and two other tobacco buying companies have for the past four years been engaged in replanting exercise to compensate for wood used for tobacco curing elsewhere.
Soldiers in the Viphya are paid by Raiply Malawi Limited because, as a private company, they made a huge investment (MK10 billion) of fiberboard processing factory which solely relies on sustainable management of the Viphya.
Members of Timber Millers Union and some politicians are on a campaign to frustrate Raiply so that they take over operations (i.e. to nationalize the Julius Malema style).
In Tanzania a similar plantation is harvested for three months only and the rest of the year is dedicated towards silviculture.