8 March 2019

Malawi: Presidential Running Mates Tussle On Debate - 'Malawi Mining Deals Need to Be Fair'

Photo: Nyasa Times
Opposition leader Joyce Banda and Jerry Jana, who was going to be her running mate.

Four presidential running mates on Thursday night took to the state at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) fielding questions from private owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) live on television and the public ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartte Elections.

Initially the debate was scheduled to have five panellits on the podium but ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) running mate Everton Chimulirenji absconded.

Those who turned up were Sidik Mia of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Jerry Jana of People's Party, Frank Mwenifumbo of United Democratic Front (UDF) and Micheal Usi of UTM.

Among the questions during the two and half hours debate centred on mining, education and agriculture.

On panellists agreed that the country was getting raw deal on its natural resources and called for transparency.

Usi said the problem has been that politicians on wrongful self-enrichment have been negotiating mining deals which should be the task of professionals who understand mineral economics and can ably negotiate the contracts.

"Malawians should be told what is happening," said Usi.

He added: "Malawi is for Malawians therefore any negotiation should be transparent that Malawians should know what is it that Malawians are going to benefit."

MCP's Mia tackled the issue of public discontent on the uranium mining deal at Kayelekera in Karonga --run by Paladin--where government only had a 15 percent stake in the mining contract.

Mia said "Malawi got a raw deal."

UDF running mate and Karonga Central legislator Frank Mwenifumbo said Malawi deserves to get appropriate share in any mining contract because the country owns mineral resources available in her soils.

He said "issues of extarite industry is complex."

Mwenifumbo said Paladin "took advantage" of abscevce of proper legislation and "went away with our wealth."

He said now the country has legal instruments to regulate the mining sector.

Mwenefumbo ackowledged that communities are not benefiting because government is not reinforcing laws that say communities living 20km within the mine should get a percentage share of the revenue generated by the mine.

Blantyre-based political and social commentator Humphreys Mvula observed that most of the panellist "seemed to have had no knowledge of the new [mining] laws except Frank Mwenifumbo."

Critics say few politicians are benefiting from Mining Contracts at the expense of local communities.

Economists say mining sector is currently contributing 10.8 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Malawi will also choose legislators and local representatives in the May 21 polls, which will see incumbent President Peter Mutharika challenged by his deputy Saulos Chilima (UTM Party) opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, Atupele Muluzi of UDF who is serving as Minister of Health and former president Joyce Banda. There are also other four presidential pretenders in the race.

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