By Mandy Pondani:
Stakeholders have said President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered in Parliament on Friday failed to inspire hope on how his government intends to address the mess in the country’s extractive industry.
“We will embark on mining of rare earth at Songwe hills in Phalombe, Makanjira in Mangochi and Kangankude in Balaka, among other areas. We will also commence the mining of graphite in Malingunde, Lilongwe. In general, we will facilitate issuance of new mineral licences to capable large-scale mining investors,” Mutharika said in his address.
But Natural Resources Justice Network in Malawi Chairperson, Kossam Munthali, Sunday said Mutharika’s speech was evident that technocrats do not tell him the truth about the reality in the industry.
Munthali said the new mining areas mentioned in Sona, are currently at exploration stage and reports on Environment and Social Impact Assessment are still under discussion.
“There is need to do more homework; it is unfortunate that the people close to the President do not provide the much-needed advice. They are about scoring political points. It is surprising for one to say that we can comfortably move to Malingunde for graphite mining. We need full disclosure of what is going on there,” Munthali said.
Youth activist Charles Kajoloweka, who leads a consortium of non-governmental organisations that are calling for a moratorium on mining activities in the country, said Mutharika’s administration was in a hurry.
“His rush to talk about new mining areas without addressing the mess in the current mining projects seems to suggest his appetite for quick gains without clear direction. Our Youth Manifesto is clear: no further exploitation of our mines without clear terms and plans,” Kajoloweka said.
Malawi, according to him, needs to invest in capacity development and enhance accountability in mining governance.
Programme Manager for Church and Society in the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP, Paul Mvula, said Mutharika’s Sona had shown that his government lacked direction on how to address matters of exploitation of communities by mining investors.
Mvula, who spearheaded a Mining Governance Project called Tonse Tipindule, said, while Mutharika boasts of legislation that is in place to govern mining activities, it was not a guarantee that sanity would be restored to the benefit of the locals.
“Also, when it comes to illegal mining, it is the indigenous miners who always carry the blame but it is important to look at the people who call the shots behind those people and most of them are foreigners. I expected the President to be very clear on what measures are in place against foreigners who invade places to explore and exploit resources,” he said.