By Tionge Kasolota
Mangochi Second Grade Magistrate’s Court on Friday sentenced 30 – year – old, Christopher Meleka to 20 months imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) for being found in possession of a counterfeit passport.
Meleka was arrested on Wednesday (November 14) this week at the Eastern Region Immigration Headquarters in Mangochi when he attempted to replace his lost passport.
The court learnt that when Meleka produced a photocopied biodata page of his lost passport it was discovered that the passport was fake and the details on it belonged to one, James Chisale Mapondo.
The court further heard that upon interrogation, Meleka admitted that the passport he had been using was indeed fake and that it was dubiously produced in South Africa by someone at a fee of 2,500 South African Rand, an equivalent of K125, 000.
Meleka was arrested forthwith and appearing before court on Friday he pleaded guilty and admitted the charge before Second Grade Magistrate, Augustine Mizaya.
State Prosecutor, Assistant Immigration Officer, Prince Pius Ng’ambi prayed for stiff penalty, saying although the offence fell under the category of misdemeanor the conduct was not a misdemeanor in nature.
Magistrate Mizaya concurred with the state, saying Meleka’s conduct was unacceptable as it could give an opportunity to foreigners to acquire and abuse the Malawian passport easily.
The court, therefore, convicted Meleka on the count of false declaration of a passport contrary to section 327 of the penal code.
In mitigation, Meleka pleaded for a lenient punishment on the basis that he was a first offender and that he was on medical treatment.
But the court found the grounds weak and slapped him with 20 months IHL without any option of fine.
“The tendency of people tampering with passports by removing the face and replacing it with another is becoming common,” observed Mizaya.
“This conduct threatens the country’s security as foreigners who do not deserve a Malawian passport easily access the travelling document and this jeopardizes the image of our country,” Mizaya charged.
Meleka hails from Makunganya Village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponda in Mangochi.