By Yohane Symon:
Communities in Mangochi District Wednesday petitioned President Peter Mutharika, through Mangochi District Commissioner Moses Chimphepo, demanding immediate action on illegal mining at Makanjira and the government-owned Namizimu Forest.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya and Natural Resources Justice Network Chairperson Kossam Munthali were among the high-profile people who joined the protesters.
The demonstrations started at 9am from Bakili Muluzi Bridge and ended with the presentation of the petition to Chimphepo at Mangochi District Council offices at 11:30am.
During their march, the demonstrators sang songs while carrying placards bearing different messages bordering on their displeasure with the way government officials have been handling their demand that illegal miners should be evicted.
“We also want the government to deploy the Malawi Defence Force to patrol Namizimu Forest to prevent the miners from destroying the forest reserve further,” reads the petition in part.
The petitioners also want Mutharika to order that the damaged areas be rehabilitated.
Vice-Chairperson for Mangochi Civil Society Network, Dickens Mahwayo, speaking on behalf of the protesters, said people of Mangochi want the government to act quickly on the illegal mining.
“It is not that people of Makanjira and Namavi are against mining. What they want is that proper procedures should be followed. We want only licensed companies to work in the area so that people can start benefiting from the natural resources,” Mahwayo said.
Since 2016, miners, mainly from outside the country, have been extracting precious stones believed to be gold from the Mangochi areas.
In the process, the miners have cut down trees, among other environment-degrading activities, taking place in the areas.
Irked by the mining activities, the communities previously engaged Malawi Police Service, Department of Environment, District Commissioner as well as holding full council meetings with members of Parliament, traditional chiefs, councillors and officials from the Department of Mines, led by its Director Jaff Salima.
But all the meetings failed to come up with a solution to evict the miners; hence the protests.
Cases of illegal mining are common in districts such as Ntcheu, Machinga and Karonga with foreigners coming to buy precious stones thereby denying the government income.