The Mchinji Second Grade Magistrate’s Court has sentenced eleven members of Seventh Day Apostolic Church to two years in prison each for disobeying court orders to vacate Mchinji Forest Reserve.
According to the state prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent Saddrey Sambo, the faith grouping sought a temporary camping permit from the Forestry Department early this year to conduct a three-month religious ceremony within Mchinji forest.
After expiry of their permit in March, the grouping could not be convinced to move out of the restricted area until last month when its three top leaders were prosecuted and jailed to two years imprisonment with hard labour each while 27 others were fined to pay K50,000 each under the Forest Act.
Further, the court ordered the rest of the church members who were illegally camping in the forest to vacate but in prejudice to this court order, the faith grouping continued living in the restricted area.
Mchinji Police public relations officer Lubrino Kaitano said Mchinji District Forestry Department conducted Value assessment and found that vegetation worth over K7.5 Million was destroyed.
Magistrate Governor Chiipanthenga found all the eleven guilty of cultivating, rearing livestock, illegal cutting down of trees and digging a well in the forest reserve, which is contrary to sections 46 (a) and 64 (b) of the forestry Act.
He then sentenced all the eleven members to two years imprisonment with hard labour.