A silent battle for sailing rights on Lake Malawi has commenced at the Mzuzu courthouse as two passenger boat operators are challenging a restriction on their vessels to no more than two Likoma-Nkhata Bay sails every week.
Last week, High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise granted Lamani Boat Investment owner Donald Kamwanja and Malungo Transport’s Mackenzie Malungo an injunction suspending the declaration by the director of marine services from limiting the wooden vessels’ travels to days when the State-run MV Ilala and a Mozambican vessel are not sailing on the route.
Since the judge pronounced the government official’s declaration illegal and unconstitutional, the private boats have been sailing almost everyday, including Tuesdays and Saturdays when the two ships travel.
Court documents show that Kamwanja and Malungo want the limitations to be lifted permanently, arguing it violates their right to economic activity in a liberalised business environment as well as freedom of movement within the country as both of them live on the island district of Likoma.
The ruling represents an early triumph for the proponents of liberalisation who accuse the department of not hearing their side when it announced the decision on February 2.
Marine officials say the declaration was made to lessen the likelihood of accidents resulting from congestion on the marine route.
The court is yet to set the date for an interpartes hearing of the matter. n