By Kondwani Magombo
Mangochi — Tempers flared at a mining indaba in Mangochi last thursday as chiefs and members of the community expressed their dissatisfaction with the approach authorities were taking in handling illegal mining in the district.
The indaba organised by Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) brought together chiefs, religious leaders, residents around the areas where mining is taking place and officials from Mining Department.
According to NRJN Chairperson, Kossam Munthali, the indaba was meant to follow-up on what the authorities had done on illegal mining in Namizimu Forest Reserve and other areas in the district a month after government had threatened to forcibly evacuate all the miners.
Civil society organisations, chiefs and representatives of the community made their presentations on the state of affairs at Namizimu Forest in Makanjira where over 1,500 people from across the continent are scrambling for traces of gold and other minerals at the expense of the environment and health of the people of the areas.
The situation went out of hand when the Director in the Department of Mining, Jaffu Salima made a presentation on the same and updated the meeting on the current situation at Namizimu.
“As I speak, everything is in the hands of our security agents that will move in to implement the evacuation anytime as you know, with issues to do with security you don’t lay your plans bare but, surely, the miners will be evacuated,” Salima added.
But Salima’s response did not go down well with the residents and religious leaders in the house who protested, saying the authorities were handling the matter with kid gloves.
“After giving you the two-week ultimatum in July to have the illegal miners thrown out of Namizimu Forest, we didn’t expect that we would be here again talking about the same issue,” Sheikh Abdullah Kaposa observed.
“We don’t have time for any of your presentations or further meetings, all we want is to see the illegal miners in Namizimu Forest evacuated and if you don’t do it, we are going to do it ourselves, in two weeks time from now,” he charged.
He warned that if the authorities continued to dilly-dally on the matter, people from Mangochi would mobilise and march the miners out on their own.
Traditional Authority (TA) Chowe, present during the meeting together with TA Makanjira and other Group Village Heads where the mining is taking place, shared the concerns raised by the religious leaders, saying it was high time the matter was closed once and for all.
The indaba has since given the Director in the Department of Mining to push the authorities for action within two to three weeks.
Other than causing serious environmental degradation, the illegal mining activities in Namizimu Forest are fueling child labour, prostitution and poor sanitation.