Raiply, Millers union differ on Chikangawa Forest share
By Thula Chisamba
The clash over Malawi’s Viphya Forest between the Local Timber Millers union and Raiply Malawi Limited has now taken a new twist as Raiply has told The Malawi Star that local timber millers union are encroachers.
President of the Local Timber millers Union (TMU) Paul Nthambazale told this publication that Raiply Malawi is using the Malawi Defence Force to encroach on their plots they bought from government in the forest.
He maintained that Raiply Malawi has been harassing locals who are also milling timber in the forest without valid reasons.
“The Malawi Defence Force officers really harrassed us, but we understand they were paid for by the Raiply Malawi authorities who are fast becoming our rivals over this forest,” said Nthambazale.
The Malawi Star in separate findings discovered that the local timber millers union dragged the matter to the forest manager Custom Nyirenda who promised to resolve the issue.
“They tussle over boundaries that are what I have observed, so I will verify their boundaries so that they stop fighting. Both signed contracts with government so as a government agent, I will try to bring unity between them,” said Nyirenda.
However, in reaction to the matter, Reply Malawi managing director Thomas Omen said local timber millers as encroachers who should be chased from the forest because they are trading there illegally.
He said that these local timber millers have made his company lose about 800 hectares of trees which translate to about K2 billion.
“With these encroachers we have lost about 800 hectares of trees which in Kwacha’s may translate to about K2 billion. It is really a bad thing for us because those are great losses which have emerged because of these encroachers,” said Omen.
When asked on allegations that his company hired the Malawi Defence Force to beat up local timber millers, Omen said he was unaware of such accusations but only knows that army officers were sent by government and not his company to guard the forest.
“Those army officers were not hired by us but government sent them here to protect the forest that is why maybe they see them confiscating their things because they are encroachers,” he added.
When asked to confirm if local millers are indeed intruders in the forest, their President Nthambazale challenged that locals are the rightful beneficiaries of the forest.
He then urged government to stop prioritizing foreigners in such businesses citing Malawians needs to be enjoying privileges of being citizens by among others trading freely in such places.
“It is just unfortunate that government favours these foreigners at our expense but in principle that forest is for us citizens, thus it is awkward for a foreigner to brand us as encroachers,” he said.
Recently, government obtained an injunction from the High Court restraining these local from plying their timber milling trade in the forest on the basis that they were destroying the forest.
The injunction was vacated soon after government held some talks with the local millers but still there is no peace in the forest.