Malawi and Zambia government officials on Friday engaged in a blame game on who was promoting intermarriages of girls below the age of 18 years.
The finger-pointing ensued during an interdepartmental meeting between officials from the two districts of Isoka in Zambia and Chitipa in Malawi.
Chitipa first grade magistrate Billy Ngosi sparked the discussion into a debate when he informed officials in the sister districts that the marriage law for girls in Malawi has now changed from 16 to 18 years.
He said following the change, Zambian men should be watchful to avoid facing a jail term in Malawi.
Said Ngosi: “We observed that some of Zambian citizens in Isoka are marrying off Malawian girls below the age of 18. We, therefore, advise you to refrain from the practice to avoid facing the Malawian law.”
But Isoka district commissioner (DC) Evenwell Mtambo expressed surprise at the warning, arguing that many men from Chitipa are intermarrying underage girls in Zambia.
“In our country, a girl child is below the age of 20. Therefore, do not attempt to cross over your borders in search for such girls; you will not like us,” he said.
It was also observed that Zambians, especially from Katabwanga and Chindilo villages in Mafinga District, are cultivating in Malawi’s Jembya Forest.
The Malawi delegates, therefore, advised their counterparts to civic educate their citizens to stop the encroachment.
At the end of the gathering, the delegates went for a tree planting exercise around Isoka Boma.
Historically, Malawi and Zambia were bonded by the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which also included present day Zimbabwe, before their independence.