Are we selling Malawi’s birthright for lentils?

Tinyoloke Properties Investments Limited managing director, Lovemore Moyo, feels vindicated that foreign companies bribe their way to secure mining licenses.

Minister Gaffar inspects mining sites

Moyo was reacting to revelations that a Chinese investor was offering K225 million bribe to Chief Mining Engineer, Cassius Chiwambo, to cut corners in a granite mining licensing process.

“We have been saying all along that most foreign investors bribe their way to Capital Hill to get a license of any sort and at any time of their choice. Yet, indigenous investors sweat blood to get a similar license,” he lamented.

Moyo was reacting to an audio that has gone viral on the social media about a Chinese investor who is heard offering to give Chiwambo K225 million to fast-track the renewal of a granite mining license for Ilomba Granite Company Limited in Chitipa.

This is not the first time the company has been implicated in corrupt and bribery practices. On January 2 2020, The Daily Times reported about some traditional leaders from Chitipa being suspected of cashing in on Ilomba Granite Company Limited for what it is said to be building a mutual relationship between the company and the local leaders.

At the time, Group Village Headman Chizale alleged that about 21 chiefs under Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwaulambia were pocketing about K20, 000 each every month.

This was disclosed during a consultative meeting the Church and Society of the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP held with communities around the mine.

“[Jou] Zhang, says he gives us the money because he stays in our community, we tried to reject the money but he said as elders, we had to receive it[the money] so that our relationship should continue growing from strength to strength,” GVH Chizale said.

But Zhang who said is the owner of the mine denied giving the chiefs money but was quick to say that the chiefs are his friends and there is a strong relationship between them.

Apparently, Ilomba Granite Company Limited Managing Director, Faisal Hassan, had dragged to court some communities in Chitipa District for interfering with affairs of the mine. But the matter was later dropped and the owner of the mining company, Zhang, said he was not aware of the court case, which his partner Faisal Hassan, the mining licence holder, had filed to the High Court.

On October 7 2020, one of Malawi’s journalists Idriss Ali Nassah, accused successive and clueless leaders of letting this country awfully down by allowing foreigners to bribe their way into all government systems and calling shots on almost all critical matters affecting the nation.

“Here is an example: At Njuli, outside of Blantyre, are Chinese people who crash our rocks into quarry stones and quarry dust. Then, they sell the crushed products to us to use in construction and all manner of other things. The Chinese running this operation didn’t bring with them the heavy machinery they are using at that site. These, I am told, they hired/leased from our PVHO [Plant and Vehicle Hire Organization],” wrote Nassah.

But the road has never been smooth for indigenous investors such as Moyo – the owner of Tinyoloke Properties Investments Limited.

Documents in our possession show that he bought mineral rights from Odox Quarry Limited through a legal process and upon direction from the Chief Mining Engineer for Mzuzu, George Maneya.

The company (ODOX) was licensed and the owner resorted to selling the rights because of her financial incapability following the death of her husband who had enough funds to fund the project. This took place in 2017.

Moyo said since then, he has been working to fulfill the requirements for the rollout of the project.

On 30th January 2020, a senior official at the Department of Mining, Bennett Msika, wrote Tinyoloke Properties Investments Limited, notifying them about the granting of the license number MML0256/19 for an initial period of five years subject to conducting and approval of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) by the Environmental Affairs Department.

According to the letter, Properties Investments Limited has been allocated 1.0 square kilometre.

“Following your application for a Medium-Scale Mining Licence for Rock Aggregate within Viphya Forest in Nkhata Bay district, the Department of would like to notify you that your company has been granted licence number MML0256/19 for an initial period of five years subject to conducting and approval of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) by the Environmental Affairs Department prior to any activities. Also kindly note that the original copy of the license will be issued following payment of annual ground rent fees amounting to MK50,000.00; which is for the total area of 1.0 square kilometer,” reads the letter which Msika signed on behalf of the Commissioner of Mines and Minerals.

Furthermore, the Director of Environmental Affairs, T.G. Mbale-Luka, wrote the managing director of Tinyoloke Properties Investments Limited on August 7, 2020, informing him about the results of the review of the revised ESIA report for the proposed Lunjika Turn-Off Rock Aggregate Quarry project.

In his letter, Mbale-Luka says the report was reviewed by the Technical Committee on the Environment (TCE) at its last sitting on 31st July, 2020.

“TCE reviewed the report and found it satisfactory. TCE recommended the report to the National Council for the Environment for approval. Should you have any questions in the foregoing, please do not hesitate to contact us,” says the Director of Environmental Affairs in the letter.

But Tinyoloke Properties Investments Limited is yet to start its operations and Moyo continues to be tossed around by senior officials at the Department of Mining while the Tonse government is impatiently waiting for the private to help it deliver on its promise to create jobs for its loafing youths.

The local investor says the company has capacity to employ 400 people in the first year of its operation.

“I have done every necessary thing and followed every necessary requirement to enable me to roll out activities at the site, but senior officials at the Mining Department keep on delaying me. I don’t know what they are looking for,” said the seemingly frustrated Moyo.

“I don’t know whether this is the treatment I would have been given if I was a foreign investor. Recently, the Minister of Mining, Rashid Gaffar, invited me to hear my issue and he was equally very disappointed that I am being treated in this way. Are you sure we should go as far as appealing to the Head of State to intervene in simple matters as this?” he asked.

In a separate interview, Gaffar wondered why it had taken the department all these years to clear the investor so that he could start mining quarry in Mzimba.

The minister said he was equally worried that the delay in rolling out the project is negatively affecting infrastructure development projects in the Northern Region as the government has to transport quarry stones all the way from Blantyre and Lilongwe for its construction projects on roads, bridges and buildings.

“This project would have helped the government reduce spending on quarry stones. I am following up with my officials to find out what happened and I am very confident that the project will take off soon,” said the minister.

The Executive Director for the Church and Society Programme of the Livingstonia Synod, Moses Mkandawire, said it is also sad that officials at the Department of Mining give preferential treatment to foreign investors who usually opt to cut corners in their operations for fear of fulfilling important requirements such as environmental impact assessment.

“Going by what is being discussed in the audio, it is as if officials at the Department of Mining have connived to sell the birthright of Malawians for their own bellies just like the biblical Esau exchanged his with lentils from his twin brother, Jacob,” said Mkandawire.

Msika disclosed that the Ministry of Mining has instituted an investigation against Chiwambo and the unnamed Chinese investor and will take necessary action from the findings.

But he differed with those suggesting that the department is selling the country for crumbs of bread just enough to fill bellies of the few.

“It’s wrong to think that corruption is institutionalized in the department. This is an isolated case and we are investigating the matter,” said Msika.

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Robert Mbendera
Robert Mbendera
2 years ago

What crime has the Department of Mines committed here? Has Mr. Moyo obtained an approved Environmental and Social Impact Assessment from Environmental Affairs Department, approved by the National Committee on Environment, as required by the mining law? Is the Department of Mines blocking Mr. Moyo from getting an approved ESIA from Environmental Affairs? Who is to blame here, the Department of Mines or Mr. Moyo or Environmental Affairs? And for which sins? Some of these articles are written with half-baked and biased pieces of information – a mockery to investigative journalism in the country!

Brian M.
Brian M.
2 years ago

Big money > Small money. Fact of life.

2 years ago

In the good ol days, we used to just line up such fellows against the wall or string them up in the gallows. No farce and the everyone behaved.

2 years ago

This has been the history of our people, too eager to sell their own country and people to foreigners for a song. In the past whole pieces of land and even people were sold in return for a bottle of cheap whisky, a bag of salt, or an old masket with a handful of bullets.

2 years ago

Just start mining the quarry, Tonse alliance is full of left over crooks from DPP, UDF and MCP. They are all thieves

2 years ago

I know Mr Chiwambo an Adventist by religion and he is bringing ridicule to his own church in town Lilongwe . Ndalama zakuba nkumapereka chakhumi ndi other offerings . God doesn’t cherish such offerings obtained from shady deals. Where is ACB to investigate these deals . The guy is leading life beyond his emoluments . I know the salary scale in government and know exactly how much he gets per month . But look at his way of life- his car !!! His own residence . All beyond his annual income which is a peanut . Reshuffle the staff at… Read more »

Bristone Mabichi
Bristone Mabichi
2 years ago

Tonse Alliance (TA), you have a huge task ahead. Everywhere you will touch there is rot. Corruption is a way of living in this nation. We propose that TA roots out all vices that were working with DPP. It is taking too long and many are continuing with the same DPP mentality of looting.

2 years ago

Jacob’s sons 🍚

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