The High Court in Blantyre on Wednesday gave government and Plastic Manufacturers Association of Malawi 14 days to negotiate on government’s plastic ban order and report to court if the negotiations do not bear fruits.
The court also ordered government to suspend the ban on production, importation, distribution and use of thin plastics during the 14-day period.
The order was made in response to the application for judicial review by the Plastic Manufacturers Association of Malawi.
“The applicant’s application for leave to apply for judicial review and ancillary orders is adjourned for 14 days in order to allow the parties to engage in out of court negotiations for an amicable resolution of the issues in this matter. The respondent [government] undertakes not to enforce the ban on the production, importation, distribution and use of plastics in Malawi as of 30th June 2014 [and] during the said 14 days.
“Upon the expiry of the said 14 days, the parties shall be at liberty to move the court should negotiations fail to yield any amicable resolution of the issues herein,” ordered Justice Rachel Sikwese.
Government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and Environmental Affairs, ordered the ban on usage of plastic bags with a thickness of 60 micrometre because they are difficult to dispose of and hazardous to health.
However, on August 18 2014, the day the enforcement was supposed to start, the plastic manufacturers applied for judicial review of the matter.
According to the court document, judicial review cause number 54 of 2014 filed by Frank Mbeta, the plastic manufacturers are challenging the ban order because, among others, the (then) Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management extended the deadline for the ban, the plastic manufacturers were not heard before making the ban and they were not given the reasons in writing.
The court documents also show that on March 27 2014, Plastic Manufacturers Association of Malawi wrote the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management Halima Daud about the implications of the order to ban plastics on their industry.
“Most of us have designed this industry [of plastic manufacturing] based on the need and affordability of the local people. Most of the people cannot afford to spend more money on packaging. [The increase of] the micron as per your request will increase the price of the products which will result into less sales and less revenue to government,” reads the letter in part.
In her response of April 14 2014, Daud extended the ban to June 30 2015. Mbeta is, therefore, wondering why government wants to enforce the ban now when there is an extension.