The Forestry Act of 2020 is the supreme law in sustainable management and use of forest resources in Malawi.
It is an eloquent piece of legislation attending to a variety of aspects to ensure degradation of forests is contained and prudence in management of vegetation and other forest resources for social and economic use are a mainstay. When forests are well cared for, the environment is good for human habitation and disasters arising from harmful effects of climate change are averted.
The gazeting of Forestry Act of 2020, however, has sparked resistance from some individuals and institutions who feel punishment for those breaching regulations therein are too harsh and not practical as regards ordinary people’s energy options.
Basically, a law such as the Forestry Act of 2020, is a body of rules imposed and enforced for guidance of human conduct in a society. In Malawi laws are not derived arbitrarily by State and Government or anybody else but go through a rigorous formulation process of consultation with interest groups before being taken to Parliament for deliberation and enactment into law. The Forestry Act under discussion went through such a process from the beginning to the end to qualify for enactment, imposition and enforcement.
It is surprising that some are beginning to contest contents of the Forest Act now as if it popped up from nowhere. We are faced with an emotional situation where application of legitimate law duly passed, assented to by the President and gazeted is being resisted at enforcement level yet all individuals and interest groups were there during formulation of the law. Social correctness is coming into play over reason as citizens fear the wrath of the law at breach in penalties that include fines of K5 million or 10-year custodial sentence for illegal production, possession or trafficking of charcoal according to Section 68(a) of the Act.
If either empathy or sympathy over wrongdoing becomes a standard measure for punishment and correction or justification for lesser penalties based on public opinion, then there is no essence in having law as it becomes vapid. What is the relevance of having due diligence in formulation of law when mere public opinion would roll in at a future time? Why spend money in consulting interest groups on law formulation when public opinion is free of charge as a standard measure over enacted law?
More so if society has to provide solutions to every situation for law to take effect, then surely crime should be allowed as a norm and just be legalised. John Locke, a British philosopher, says that a doctrine that leads us into absurdity can never be true. There are people incarcerated in prison because they stole food to eat to live, government did not first provide them with food options so that upon being found guilty of theft they should have had an alternative. Some people are in gaols today because they did not know that what they were committing was a crime, government did not have to specifically educate them on proceeding legal effect for law to bind. Others were sentenced to 30 years imprisonment with hard labour for illegal hunting and possession of pangolins from the same Malawi forests where trees are wantonly cut for charcoal because they wanted to graduate from poverty; government did not give them special economic alternatives for law to apply. There is no legality in cherry picking applications models of law where offences committed under the same legislation are to be treated differently based on emotional empathy as a standard in public opinion square.
To raise precedence of solutions for law to take effect, therefore, leads us into absurdity and cannot be true, hence calls to discard enforcement, though an exercise of free speech, must be ignored as they had remedy in formulation for consideration. Additionally, laws of Malawi provide for repeal of any law and any discontented citizens have another option of redress by following right protocol.
Malawi cannot continue to entertain crying babies over every issue arising from emotional selfish interests. undue resistance observed to Labour Relations Act, NGO Law and now Forestry Act of 2020 are unnecessary popular public outrage. Forestry Act of 2020 is just the right bunch of rules for better forests, environment and climate.