The case in which eight Tanzanian nationals are being charged with trespassing at the Kayerekera Uranium Mine in Karonga took a new turn as fourth state witness told the court that the clandestine operation dates back to 2014.
The witness, Deogratias Gama told the court that in that year, the first accused person Xsavery Mahundi came with a German accomplice and tested water in Lake Malawi and North Rukuru River for traces of minerals.
Gama said they told him they aimed at establishing what killed the schools of fish in the lake since they were experiencing a similar problem in Tanzania.
He said their visit followed a brief interaction he had with Mahundi in Mbeya in early 2014 where he expressed interest to visit Malawi in order to learn more on uranium mining.
“Later that year, he came with the German and they asked me a number of questions about the Kayerekera Uranium Mine and safety of water in our lake [Malawi] and rivers. The tests revealed that the water was not contaminated, they then left me with the tri-tester to be conducting regular tests and fill them in on results,” explained Gama who then tendered the tester to the court as exhibit.
According to the police, the conduct of the two constitutes a crime as they did not seek official permission from the government to carry out the tests in a foreign country.
The Chief Resident Magistrate for the Northern Region Texious Masoamphambe then heard that since that year to December 2016 there was no communication between Gama and Mahundi who introduced himself as manager at Tanzania Mineral, Mining Trust Fund
After the silence, the two reconnected on December 18, 2016 when Mahundi told Gama that he was at the Songwe Border with colleagues as continuation to the 2014 mission.
“I helped them secure accommodation but due to my limited knowledge on issues of mining and how they can have access to Kayerekera, I introduced them to chairperson of the Karonga Business Community Wavisanga Silungwe who promised to facilitate their movement,” Gama explained.
Silungwe is expected to testify when the court reconvenes on February 22 in Mzuzu.
Meanwhile, defence lawyer Nicely Msowoya has expressed satisfaction with the manner at which the case is proceeding.
The eight were arrested on December 20 last year on their way to Kayerekera Uranium Mine and are answering two charges of criminal trespassing and carrying out a reconnaissance operation without licence which are contrary to Section 314 (1) of the Penal Code and Section 2(4) of Mines and Minerals Act.