By Iommie Chiwalo
Stakeholders have expressed disapproval of mining activities in Mulanje mountain, the Malawi’s cultural treasure which has been a centre for tourism since immemorial.
Speaking to the media at a joint press conference held in Mulanje, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa says there is need for an immediate withdrawal of Akaswiri Mining Company from Mulanje Mountain, and urgently call for an all-inclusive stakeholders’ meeting to discuss matters pertaining to mining in this mountain before the situation gets out of hand.
He said as a step forward, jointly with Friends of Mulanje, Tourism Association of Mount Mulanje, Tour Guides and Porters’ Association and concerned groups and individuals have engaged Mulanje District Commissioner (DC) Mr. David Gondwe on the matter.
“We have embarked on this course having received information that various stakeholders are seething with rage in total disbelief that Akaswiri Mining Company has descended on Chambe Plateau and is carrying out mining related activities without engaging the communities who are
key stakeholders to this national, continental and world pride,” he said.
He said in reaction to what is happening in the mountain, over 20 village and group village heads in Traditional Authorities Mkanda and Mabuka, bordering the Lichenya and Likhubula basins that make up the Chambe Plateau, convened an emergency meeting that mandated the aforementioned organisations and groups to lead in rescuing Mt. Mulanje from destruction through, among others, the kind of activities Akaswiri Mining Company is alleged to be doing.
“Thus far, we have petitioned the DC to do the needful by Thursday, December 21, 2023. Malawians may wish to know that Akaswiri Mining Company descended on the mountain on
November 28, 2023 following a purported extra-ordinary District Council meeting held on April 20, 2023 which reportedly approved the mining activities,” he said.
Adding his voice Tourism Association of Mulanje Mountain Chairperson Willard Mahata, says the company’s action was in total disregard of the fact that besides being a cultural and historic natural resource, Mt. Mulanje is a UNESCO designated heritage site, which is also a catchment area of water bodies and important rivers supplying water to people in Mulanje, Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Thyolo and Blantyre through Blantyre and Southern Region water boards.
“Over and above that, bauxite, which is one of the earmarked minerals at Lichenya Plateau, is toxic. This simply means that mining in this mountain will lead to contamination of water, thereby posing sure danger to any living thing, including people,” he said.
Adding that Mt. Mulanje is home to the highest number of unique plant and animal biodiversity in Africa.
“It is important that we concentrate on tourism other than mining considering that Mulanje Mountain by any standard and measure, it is a global treasure that as citizens, we must
be proud of and jealously guard it from any form of harm,” he said.
By law, the calls of the concerned stakeholders are necessitated by Section 12 of the Republican Constitution, which hinges on trust, transparency and accountability, and more importantly, demands those exercising legal and political authority to make decisions, to solely serve and protect people’s interests.
The concerned stakeholders have since called upon the DC to make public all relevant documents that culminated into granting of mining license (s) by the Ministry of Forestry and Climate Change, and not the responsible Ministry of Mining, as expected.
“Subsequently, as a people proud of their treasure, all purported licences should be revoked forthwith since mining is not an option on Mt. Mulanje,” says the grouping.
Apart from water supplied to Mulanje, Thyolo, Chiradzulu and Blantyre districts, the mountain provides direct jobs to 600-plus porters and guides, 65 tourism facility operators that have provided over 30, 000 jobs in the hospitality industry, with multi-billion kwacha investments that will turn into white elephants should the mountain cease to be tourist attraction due to health related hazards stemming from mining activities.
CDEDI Chief then highlights that accepting mining in the mountain will mean incurring losses in billions of kwacha through taxes both at local and central governments levels.
The recent attack on Mt. Mulanje has sent shock waves to communities in Mulanje and Phalombe districts as they are reminded of the fatal effects of water gushing out of rocks that were unprovoked, hence they cannot condone any apparent provocation of danger through drilling that will weaken further the structure of the mountain, change courses of water, thereby leading to more flash floods that have the potential to wipe out humans, animals and crops as was the case with Cyclone Freddy.