18th May, 2021
Faith Leaders and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have expressed concern over serious flaws in mining activities undertaken in Mangochi District; and call upon government to devolve mining functionalities and personnel to the district to ensure that all activities in line with mining are done in accordance with mining policies, all etiquettes aligning to mining activities are timely handled at local level, communities are inclusively involved in decision making and benefiting accordingly.
There has been a surge in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Mangochi by local communities, yet little is being done by the government to formalize and support the mining sector at the district level. The fundamental challenge in Mangochi seems to be that the speed at which control over mining sector has not been decentralised necessitating an increment of unregulated illegal mining which is also mostly done by the foreigners from countries such include: Mozambique, Tanzania, and Pakistan among others.
The key government watchdogs stand by as spectators while mining operations are allowed to progress, regardless of the negative impact they may have on local communities or the environment.
Attesting to the matter, Sheikh Fahadi Kamsuli, Chairperson of Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), “mining sector lacks adequate legal standards and safeguard to ensure the necessary balance between developing the mining industry and protecting the rights of local communities. It deemed how weak government oversight and lack of information and transparency leave local communities unprotected and uninformed about the risk and opportunities associated with mining”
The Chairperson of Civil Society Organisation in Mangochi, Josephy Makwakwa bemoaned that there is evidence that without effective government’s regulations, not all companies or stakeholders behave responsibly. On sad note, according to Makwakwa, when malpractices have been reported to district council, the council officials have to refer to the mining officials at national level as there is no mining personnel at district level. This delays decision making processes in dealing with challenges or any occurrences attached to mining sector at district level.
However, Chikwakwa added that, ‘devolution of mining sector from the central government to local council is a viable routine that will enhance smooth operations of mining-related issues at district level”. “The advantage of devolution of mining sector is that it will bring decision making including enforcing compliance with mining policies and laws closer to where extractive activities are taking place”
Echoing to the matter, Mike Banda, Southern Region Coordinator, MEJN, states that mining is a potential income avenue to the national budget. And if it’s well managed, social protection programmes such include bursaries, social cash transfer, and school loans among others would also be adequately funded. He also urged the participants and Malawians at large to take the advantage of the political will that which the currently resume has shown on issues of mining; as this will create a cooperative and cohesive platform to achieve a common goal. He further called upon the government to take a hasty step in ensuring that all policies and legal processes are being taken into consideration and done transparently to attain feasible and anticipating benefit from the extractive sector.
It was also recognised that the government should take a haste step in establishing mining regulators and cooperatives in all areas where illegal and artisanal mining is taking place to improve the impact of extractive industry to the livelihood of Malawians at large.
“If the government of Malawi fastens the process of decentralising mining sector, it will enhance inclusiveness of both local and central governments in the extractive industry and necessitate effective operations of mining activities which will ultimately translate into effective contribution to the national budget ” Reverend Debora Julion concludes
This was established when Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), with funding from Norwegian Church Aid and Danish Church Aid (NCA-DCA) Malawi Joint Country Programme, conducted capacity building training from 17th -20th May in Mangochi, in the course of implementing a social protection project entitled “Fighting Social and Economic Inequalities”, particularly focusing on health, education and mining sectors.