Daily_Times_Comment_15Mar16Great to see the Editor of the Daily Times (Malawi) speak out against the selling of Malawi’s ivory in yesterday’s editorial comment section.

Malawi Government yesterday burnt 781 pieces of ivory following a High Court order in Mzuzu made on March 2 2016. The pieces came from elephants from Tanzania and Mozambique according to Director of Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa.

The burning of the ivory has stirred heated debate on social media with some wondering why government did not simply sell the ivory and get billions of kwacha that could be used to solve some of the problems the country is facing. Others thought the government failed to sell because the ivory did not belong to Malawi.

But of great interest is government itself which also feels selling the ivory would not be ideal. We are bound to say that because last week Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka, said there is need for Malawians to debate on what the country should do with the ivory that is confiscated in contrast to burning. Interpreting the minister’s statement, it was clear that he was of the view that burning may not be the most ideal solution.

And Kumchedwa said yesterday that the country needs to debate on whether to sell or burn ivory that is confiscated. For the ivory yesterday, he said it was because there was a court order. But he said there are also other pieces of ivory in government custody whose solution is not yet found. He said Malawians need to discuss what to do with the ivory following the controversy that ensued in Parliament over the same pieces with some MPs opting for sale.

We are surprised with the reasoning of government to promote the idea of selling ivory when it is very clear that no single country in the world can trade in ivory because of the international laws that prohibit ivory trade.

Does government therefore make sense to start thinking of other ways of disposing of confiscated ivory like selling it when there is no country that can legally trade in ivory? Is this debate meaningful? Will it not waste our time? It is simple to see that for countries to start trading in ivory, the international laws on ivory must be changed. Can Malawi alone do that? Yes, we know that the country is squeezed financially but we urge government to think of legal ways of getting funds. Is Malawi Government telling us that it is ready to trade in illegal ivory?

Our leaders are good at promising debates over many issues which eventually achieve nothing or fail to come to conclusion. The leadership of this country has always said Malawians should discuss the issue of homosexuality whether to allow it or not. Has government initiated that debate? The answer is a big no. That is why until now government is failing to make its position on homosexuality clear. The same applies to the issue of abortion. Government said Malawians should discuss and come up with one position but that debate is nowhere.

That is why we find the debate on ivory as another time waster. Can government tell us what will happen later if the majority of Malawians say the ivory should be sold? Which market will government take the ivory to? Is Malawi Government ready to start the process of changing international laws that bar ivory trade?