Blantyre Magistrate court has sentenced 40 year old man Mateyu Salikuchepa from Jumabanga Village T/A Namkumba in Mangochi district 24 months Imprisonment for Hard Labour after being found guilty in Child Trafficking which is contrary to section 79 of the Child Care and Protection and Justice.
Court heard that on 29 July this year Salikuchepa and his friend Luka Chidothi who is at large trafficked 21 people from Mozambique among them 9 were children under 16 years and were intercepted by the police at Wenera Bus depot when they wanted to take them to Monkey-Bay in Mangochi to work in tobacco fields.
According to the evidence brought before the court by the 9 victims aged between 12 and 15 the accused person Mateyu Salikuchedwa and his friend Luka took them from their homes in Zambezi province in Mozambique to work in tobacco fields in Mangochi. The victims said they accepted because of poverty as they were promised to be paid a lot of money.
The children testified that they left Mozambique on Wednesday around 1am and the suspects advised them to be telling anyone who asks about their journey that they were going to a football match. After that evidence the court paraded two state witnesses and the first to testify was child protection officer sergeant Emmanuel Kalungu who said he received a call from a well wisher that something suspicious was taking place.
Kalungu said he rushed to the scene where he found Salikuchedwa with the children and asked him but failed to explain very well. He took them to Blantyre police but the accused and his brother Luka escaped after seeing the police. The officer took the victims to Chisomo orphanage centre for accommodation and charged the accused person with child trafficking which is contrary to section 79 of the the Child Care and Protection and Justice.
Though the convict tried to defend himself that he was not involved in the malpractice since he went to Mozambique to visit his friend Chidothi and he (Chidothi) was the one who recruited the children since Mateyu doesn’t grow tobacco but maize groundnuts and cotton instead, this never meant anything before the court.
Blantyre senior police prosecutor Constable Moja Phiri asked the court to give the convict a stiffer punishment since the malpractice is becoming rampant in the country following the arrested of other child trafficking suspects in Phalombe four days ago saying this should be a lesson to others of the same behaviours.
Before passing the sentence, Senior resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba said the accused played a greater role since he would have the responsibility to react on what his friend Chidothi was doing.
Nyimba said this is a serious offence since it tracts the relationship between two countries Malawi and Mozambique and this behavior can destroy a good relationship between these counties
When passing the Verdict he said, “according to section 79 of the Child Care and Protection and Justice this crime attracts a penalty of life imprisonment but is the great concern that in this country, we don’t have a clear law which deals with child trafficking cases though the parliament passed the bill but it is not yet gazzeted.,” he said
“According to the police records this man has no any other criminal record meaning that he has atleast good characters so, this court is sentencing him on charges of nine counts since nine children involved and he will serve 24 months imprisonment for hard labour in each count but this will run concurrently considering other factors of reducing his punishment,” he sentenced the convict.