Malawi Defence Force (MDF) have swept 118 illegal miners from Namizimu Forest Reserve in Mangochi during an operation they conducted at the dawn of Wednesday, both police and MDF confirmed Thursday.
The operation came barely a week after chiefs, Mangochi residents and civil society organizations conducted demonstrations on Wednesday, October 10, in protest to illegal mining activities in Namizimu Forest in Makanjira and Namabvi areas.
Mangochi Police Public Relations Officer, Inspector Rodrick Maida, confirmed the development, saying 90 males and 28 females had been rounded up during the operation and that they were brought to Mangochi Police Station.
“Among them there are 84 Malawians – 62 males and 22 females; 31 Mozambicans – 27 males and 4 females; 2 male Tanzanians and one male DRC national,” explained Maida.
However, he could not comment further on the matter, saying the suspects were just in transit to Zomba where their cases would be handled.
MDF Spokesperson, Major Paul Chiphwanya, also confirmed about the operation saying MDF would remain at Namizimu and other places where the illegal mining activities were taking place till further notice.
“We will continue with the operation until we succeed,” Chiphwanya told Mana on Thursday when asked on how long they would keep guard of the forest.
In their petition to President Prof. Peter Mutharika through the District Commissioner Reverend Moses Chimphepo, the protestors had pleaded with the Malawi leader to deploy the MDF to expel illegal miners from the said sites by October 26.
The protestors observed in their petition that the illegal mining activities were benefiting non-Malawians who were coming from as far as Asia, Europe and across Africa in pursuit for corundum and gold deposits in the said areas.
They had also complained that the activities were contributing to environmental degradation, child labour and child prostitution, among other things.
The protestors asked government to engage serious investors to mine the deposits legally and to create employment for Malawians living in Mangochi and beyond.
Close to 2 000 people from within Africa and beyond had settled in the forest reserve as at July when government started giving warning shots asking the illegal miners to leave voluntarily.