Senior Resident Magistrate James Mankhwazi, sitting at Salima Magistrate Court, on Monday, 31 October 2022, sentenced Malawi Defence Force (MDF) officer Manison Anania Msokwa to five years imprisonment with hard labour for possessing and offering for sale a Pangolin.
Msokwa, who was based in Salima, had faced two charges in a prolonged case presided over by Senior Resident Magistrate Joanna Kwatiwani, on whose behalf Magistrate Mankhwazi delivered the sentence.
The charges were: possession of specimen of listed species contrary to section 86 (1) as read with section 110B(b) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act (NPWA) and offering for sale specimen of listed species contrary to section 86(1) as read with section 110B(b) of the NPWA.
The NPWA provides for a maximum prison sentence of 30 years for these crimes, with no option of fine.
Msokwa was found guilty and convicted on both charges some months ago and was on remand awaiting sentencing. Magistrate Mankhwazi gave him five years prison sentence for each count and the sentences will run concurrently.
The MDF officer, who served for 31 years in the service, was arrested on 15th December, 2020 at Total filling station at Salima Boma. He was in full MDF uniform together with other suspects in a Toyota Ractis, which the court ruled must be forfeited to the state.
Following his arrest and subsequent charging, prosecutors and defence–with their witnesses–have been in and out of court for nearly two years.
On making final submissions for sentencing, prosecutors presented, among others, the following as aggravating factors:
Msokwa premeditated to commit the “serious offences” knowing that he is an MDF officer who ought to respect the law and respect his profession and attire. They prayed that he deserved a custodial sentence to deter other would-be offenders.
On the other hand, the defence argued, among others, that the convict has had no criminal record in the period that he served, may also lose his terminal benefits, was honouring his bail conditions and is a family man with seven children. He deserved a suspended sentence, they prayed.
However, passing the sentence, Senior Resident Magistrate Mankhwazi concurred with prosecutors, adding that the convict’s actions encourage poaching and depletion of listed species in Malawi, which discourages tourists and consequently affects the economy.
State prosecutor, Levinson Mangani, promptly welcomed the sentence, saying “it is pleasing that the law is not sparing anyone regardless of their status”.
Msokwa, 54, hails from Ibanga village, Traditional Authority Mwaulambia in Chitipa District.