BY DRAXON MALOYA
Hell broke loose in the Chikangawa Forest on Saturday when workers belonging to a women’s grouping dealing in environmental conservation called Chilengedwe Lioness Association and General Dealers went to Compartment C214C of Chikangawa Forest and started harvesting trees which Raiply Malawi Limited claims to have planted in 2001.
The mayhem comes at a time when there is calm after operators in the plantation managed to settle all their misunderstandings that at some point led to the destruction of exotic tree species following a series of hot verbal wars between the management of Raiply Malawi Limited and a grouping of indigenous sawyers called the Reformed Timber Millers Union (RTMU).
According to Raiply Malawi Limited’s Public Relations Officer, Dalitso Chimwala, the trees in compartment C214C were planted in 2001 and belong to Raiply Malawi Limited.
The Publicist for the country’s leading wood manufacturing industry sounded very mindful when speaking, suspecting politics to be at play when he stated that apart from planting the trees in the compartment under dispute the company has also been paying loyalties annually as such there is no way the government could sell trees from that portion of the plantation.
“Chilengedwe Lioness Association and General Dealers wants to harvest 8000 hectares of the Raiply’s concession area. We are confused as to how the government can allow anyone to encroach and harvest our trees, we do not only plant but have also been paying loyalties annually,” said Chimwala
Efforts to speak to the president of the Chilengedwe Lioness Asassociation and General Dealers, Chimwemwe Chikatentha and Ester Kathumba who are among the directors for the women grouping proved futile since their mobile phones remained switched off on several times we called them.
However, the documents this publication has managed to source which were shared with the police and the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) who halted the Chilengedwe Lioness Association and General Dealers from continuing with the tree harvesting waiting for discussion on Monday (20-11-2023) have the following: an official offer letter authorising harvesting, concession agreement and copies of two General Receipts paid to the Department of Forest through the office of the Director.
Numerous efforts to confirm the authenticity of the K30 million and K27 million General Receipts; Chilengedwe Lioness Association and General Dealers produced in the presence of the Commissioner of Police and his team who were called to the scene proved futile since the Deputy Forest Director, Ted Kamoto expressed ignorance with the matter but asked for more time to get down to the bottom of the issue first before he commented.
The receipts were meant for the 145 hectares of Eucalyptus trees the women grouping got from government at Mtangatanga of which it is alleged that Raiply Malawi Limited illegally harvested 99 hectares of the concession hence compensating them with trees at Lusangazi Area and compartment C214C.
In November 2020 Government of Malawi formally gave the exclusive rights to Raiply Malawi Limited to manage the 20,000-hectare concession area in the Viphya Plantation at Chikangawa in Mzimba district hoping that the new arrangement is cost-saving and ensures maximum revenue collection.
However, the recent documentation following an assessment of the Vipya Plantation concession boundaries aimed at verifying the boundary between Raiply Malawi Limited and Kawandama Hills Plantation (KHP) at Compartment C214C and Reformed Timber Millers Union (RTMU) at Compartment Z82B reveals that Raiply is now operating on 28,550.30 hectares while KHP sits on 7,350.51 hectares.
The documentation further revealed that over the years the Vipya Plantation has expanded in it’s proximity to approximately 81,779.62 hectares against the 53 000 hectares at establishment in the 1950s.
According to the top-secret information this reporter has gathered, following the extension of Raiply Malawi Limited’s concession area the Government of Malawi is reported to be losing US$300 million annually.