By Jordan Simeon-Phiri, MEC Stringer
About 10 aspirant Parliamentarians from the three constituencies in Karonga District turned up on Wednesday and signed commitments at an extractive debate at Karonga Museum Amphitheater, whose aim was to market themselves ahead of the May 21 tripartite elections.
The debate was to hear from the would-be legislatures have in mind to protect their constituents from exploitation once elected to the august house.
This follows mining lessons drawn from Paladin Africa at Kayekera and Irlad Coal Mines at Mwaulambo in the area of Traditional Authority Kilupula which left their sites with numerous unfulfilled promises and big pits that have killed many livestock in the area.
Oxfam’s extractives industries coordinator, Elyvin Chawinga said her organization decided to partner with Justice and Peace (JP) to engage shadow Parliamentarians so that the electorate can hear what they plan to do and to sign commitments as one way of avoiding a repeat of what has been happening over the years where miners would come and go, leaving behind huge dangerous pits and a degraded environment.
Chawinga said this ‘I don’t care syndrome’ propelled them to come in and side with the community members at an earliest stage so that the shadow MPs should be held accountable one day should they fail to live by their promises and commitments.
“From the discussions, we have noted that there are so many issues in extractives. These problems range from corruption, lack of flow of information to unfulfilled promises made by miners,” Chawinga said.
Asked after the debate what they will do once ushered into power on May 21, Malawi Congress Party Karonga North-West aspirant, Daniel Mwanyongo said the debate came at the right time when his party had just unveiled its manifesto that covers mining issues at national level that would trickle down to districts that have deposits such as Karonga.
“We are clear on miners who take advantage of high levels of ignorance of people in our villages that allows them to be given a raw deal.
“We are telling them that their honeymoon is over once we win elections. We will review all mining licenses, we will not hesitate to revoke licenses of those who will fail to comply with labour laws,” Mwanyongo said.
Another aspirant from Karonga Central, Mary Florence Nthakomwa from UTM said her party ensure that all miners sign a legal binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will have both short and long term plans for various developmental activities for people.
“These gaps come in due to lack of reference material and as a result miners manipulate, exploit and abandon the community members with nothing to show about in terms of social amenities,” Nthakomwa said.
Aford’s Frank Mwenifumbo once re-elected, he will push for the US$10 million that Paladin Africa deposited for environmental conservation in the district.
Speaking to the media after the debate, JB project officer responsible for extractives, Vincent Bwinga said he was impressed with the outcome of the debate, saying the platform provided both the community members and the would-be legislatures to discuss sticky issues that miners inflict on them.
JP is the Karonga Diocese NGO and the debate was funded by Australian Aid through Oxfam and it drew aspiring MPs from Karonga North, Central and North-West constituencies.