Malawi: Unlicensed Tobacco Vendors Convicted

Griffins Kaliza in his tobacco farm in Malawi's central Mchinji dsitrict.

"it is a crime to buy tobacco from growers and vendors without a buyer's license."

Mkukula Magistrates Court has sentenced four tobacco vendors to pay K150,000 each or if in default, serve 18 months in prison with hard labour for buying tobacco without license.

Senior Resident Magistrate Cecilia Onsewa in her ruling she said the offence committed was so serious and attract penalty of up to K10 Million or five years in prison.

Onsewa observed that the court considered some factors, which include the fact that the accused were the first offenders and that they pleaded guilty to the offence hence the the reduced sentencing.

The Convicted are; Heberin Black, 29, Pilirani Austin, 33, who was arrested at Kabudula trading center in Lilongwe April 30th, 2021.

Makina Katekete age 55 was arrested at Chiwoko trading centre on 30th April 2021 while Mayeso Elias age 22 was arrested at Nsanama Trading Center on the same day.

Tobacco Commission (TC ) equipped with the new tobacco industrial Act started a manhunt of all people indulging in illegal tobacco vending.

TC chief executive officer Chidanti Malunga says the exercise of flushing out illegal tobacco vending through enforcement unit is in line with the Tobacco Act.

On 29 April, 2021, while on joint patrol with the enforcement officers four suspects were arrested at Nsamana trading centre in Lilongwe, after the police and the Tobacco Control Commission enforcement unit raided the place following a tip off from the community that some unknown persons were buying tobacco from farmers in the area.

Following court proceedings that ensued, the four were found guilty of contravening sections 67 (1) and 69 (1) and Magistrate Mkukula Magistrates Court convicted and sentenced them accordingly.

The Tobacco Commission has since expressed satisfaction with the way law enforcers and the courts handled the case.

The Commission further commended the community members for being vigilant in making sure that growers benefit from their labour, by among by reporting illegal tobacco buyers.

The TC is therefore appealing to tobacco growers to desist from selling their crop to any middlemen as the act is against the law.

The Commission will continue to monitor and intensify the enforcement. In order to report illegal acts to police, use the anonymous toll free number 2051.

The new Tobacco Industry Act was enacted by Parliament in February 2019.

Meanwhile Kanengo Police Publicist, Esther Mkwanda has has commended the general public for the tip-offs.

The higher authority in the Tobacco Industry and regulator, Tobacco Commission warned vendors against Tobacco vending saying its serious breach of newly passed Tobacco Industry law.

'Field patrols'

In a statement which the commission released in advance, anyone found doing that will have to pay K10 Million or being jailed in default.

"The Tobacco Commission wishes to inform all concerned stakeholders and the general public that according to the tobacco industry Act of 2019, it is a crime to buy tobacco from growers/vendors without a buyer's license, Section 67(1)."

According to the statement, it is also an offence to sell tobacco at premises other than the licensed tobacco floors, Section 78(1) as well as exporting unprocessed tobacco without written permission from Tobacco Commission, Section 96 (2).

TC reminded venders that it is an offence to import tobacco grown outside Malawi and sell it on Malawi Tobacco Licensed Floor, Section 87 (1).

"According to the Tobacco Industry Act of 2019, any person who contravenes these sections shall, upon conviction, liable to a fine of K10,000,000 (Ten Million Kwacha Only) and imprisonment for five years."

In view of this law, the Commission will be undertaking field patrols across all parts of the country and anyone found doing such malpractices shall be prosecuted.

"Tobacco growers and the general public are advised not to allow any person to use their premises for buying tobacco as it is against the law, and if found, the buyer, the seller, and also the owner of the premises shall be arrested and brought before the court of law," read the statement.

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