Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Commander General Griffin Supuni-Phiri and Raiply chief executive officer Thomas Oomen have escaped a contempt of court charge following a consent order to withdraw the case.
The trio alongside director of forestry Clement Chilima and other MDF and government officials risked a jail term or have their property seized if they were found guilty of contempt of court.
Phiri, Msaka and the others were dragged to court by members of Viphya Plantation Timber Millers Union after they allegedly violated a court order that allowed some timber millers to continue processing timber in Viphya Plantation despite government declaring a selective closed season for the plantation.
The High Court gave the timber millers 21 days to process timber as they had already bought logs in the plantation. However, government instructed MDF to chase the timber millers from the forest.
Following the violation, lawyer for the timber millers George Kadzipatike applied for leave to start contempt of court proceedings against Msaka, Supuni-Phiri and others which the High Court granted.
However, The Nation established that the case has been closed as the parties decided to settle the matter outside court
Kadzipatike yesterday confirmed withdrawing the case, adding that the concerned parties met and agreed to settle the matter out of court.
“We were involved in discussions. We signed a consent order to resolve the matter outside court and it was agreed that the matter be withdrawn. So, the officials are no longer answering the case,” said Kadzipatike.
Chilima has since hailed the withdrawal of the case, saying it will help the ministry concentrate on managing the forest. He said being a closed season, no one is supposed to be in the forest. n