By Jordan Simeon-Phiri, MEC Stringer
Following the release of official Local Government and Parliamentary elections results by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Justice and Peace (JP) of Karonga Diocese on Wednesday brought together ward councillors from three constituencies and their Members of Parliament to an interface meeting with the community members to discuss issues affecting the mining industry in the district.
Project coordinator for extractives at JP, Vincent Bwinga said the meeting that took place at Manguzi Lodge came about as a follow up of public political debates his organization held for the aspirants before the May 21 elections where they signed commitment forms.
”This meeting is just one of a series of engagement meetings that we will be initiating between elected leaders and community members where the two parties will be discussing issues that affect them when extractive investors fail to implement agreed corporate social responsibilities and labour laws,” Bwinga said.
Speaking on behalf of the community members, Vincent Mbobe said most of the problems people are going through in the district emanate from lack of a mining office in Karonga that could be dealing with minor challenges.
Mbobe further told the gathering that the elected leaders should also lobby for five percentage of mining proceeds to be deposited to the districts account for local development.
“Our wish is to benefit from mining proceeds. Apart from employment we should also have our own share for the whole district to benefit.
“We want our elected leaders to fight for deliberate policies that would minimize the duration that miners are given to explore samples from 10 years to two years as this gives room for them to export millions of tons of minerals in the name of samples,” Mbobe said.
He further said newly-elected leaders should ask the government to embrace free, prior informed and consent (FPIC), a component that empowers the community to hold accountable miners they violate labour laws and fail to fulfill promises.
Speaking on behalf of the ward councillors, DPP’s representative for Rukuru Ward Smart Mwakayira assured both JP and the community members that they will safeguard the interest of the electorates to develop Karonga.
”We have taken note of these issues and we will work as a team regardless of our political party affiliations to make sure that we rectify and implement these issues accordingly,” Mwakayira said.
However, the community members were not amused with the absence of three MPs — DPP’s Mungasulwa Mwambande (Karonga North), James Kamwambi (DPP, Karonga North West) and MCP’s Dr. Cornelius Mwalwanda (Karonga Central constituency) — who never showed up for the meeting despite confirming their attendance.
JP of Karonga Diocese is implementing the extractive project in the district with funding from Australian Aid through Oxfam.