Environmental activists have called for an investigation into Minister of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife Symon Vuwa Kaunda’s order to open, on account of elections, four plastic manufacturing companies that were recently closed.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Monday, the activists under a grouping called Movement for Environmental Action have questioned the minister’s action, saying it is illegal and suspicious and must be investigated.
The briefing follows a story in The Nation on Friday which brought to light the minister’s directive to have the companies opened despite a thin plastics ban in force.
The four companies—Qingdao Plastics, City Plastics Industries, OG Plastics Industries and Anchor Plastics—were closed early this month by the Department of Environmental Affairs pending court proceedings.
In a seven-page statement shared at the media briefing, the movement says the minister’s conduct is irregular and regrettable.
“The Minister’s conduct undermines the aspirations of Malawians who are keen to see the phasing out of thin plastics which pose a serious threat to the environment and the country’s socio-economic development,” reads part of the statement.
The movement’s interim leader Mathews Malata and other members said the minister acted outside the law and must reverse the order to pave way for the due court processes.
Asked if the ministry has complied with the order to reopen the factories, secretary for environment Isaac Katopola said the order was passed on to the Environmental Affairs Department for consideration.
He said: “The memo left my office. It is with the director [Environmental Affairs] since these are technical matters.”
Both the minister and the director for Environmental Affairs Tawonga Mbale-Luka could not pick up our calls.
But in an interview yesterday, a senior law lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College Chikosa Banda said the Plastic Regulations Act of 2015 does not empower the minister to impose fines but the courts. He said the minister’s decision lacks legal basis.
Malawi is implementing a ban on plastics that are less than 60 microns as per the Plastics Regulations Act of 2015.
A Lilongwe Wildlife Trust report released last year estimates that Malawians generate about 0.20 kg of plastic per person per day. Statistics further show that, globally the impacts of plastics on the environment are estimated to result in natural capital losses of nearly $40 billion per year. It is for this reason that several countries have banned production of plastics.