Malawi DC stops demos against Paladin in Karonga

Karonga District Commissioner’s office has denied permission to the organizers of the planned public protests aimed at forcing the Australian mining company Paladin to close down Kayerekera Uranium Mine, saying the decision was in the interest of maintaining public peace and security, which is a paramount responsibility office.

DC Bambe said this in a letter to Spokesperson for demonstrations Wavisanga Silungwe dated 7thMarch, 2013 and copied to Police, Paramount Chief Kyungu, Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Paladin Africa General Manager – Greg Walker.

Mass demonstrations were scheduled from 12th  to 26th  March 2013 and were likely to paralyze the Mine’s operations because the main road to the mine was to be blocked in various sections thereby cutting supplies to mine, organizers told NyasaTimes.

Locals argue that they have not benefited from Paladin’s presence in terms of social infrastructure, jobs and business opportunities.

Greg Walker of Paladin: Under pressure from Karonga community
Greg Walker of Paladin: Under pressure from Karonga community

Paladin has always indicated that it had invested MK5 billion for social development projects in Karonga but locals think this is a ‘farce’ arguing that the company is unable to account for it.

“Much as it is everyone’s constitutional right to conduct peaceful demonstrations… our office is not a party to your plans since on the contrary your actions and the contents in your correspondences contain elements of aggression that would culminate into anarchy if left unchecked,” Bambe said.

Protestors’ plan of action

The DC said to Silungwe: “The following bear testimony to my concerns and unwillingness for my office to get involved and support your plans and demonstrations.”

.Camp at Sere River and block Paladin Workers, Vehicles, Coasters and Trucks going to or from Kayelekera mine.

.Camp at Karonga International Airport, preventing any Paladin visitor landing that day and afterwards.

.Ask for all vehicles belonging to Paladin that will move around Karonga Township to be packed at Karonga Police Station.

.On Thursday, 28th February, 2013, Paramount Chief Kyungu invited you together with other businessmen to a meeting at his headquarters which only you out of all invited businessmen declined to attend.

. After deducing from the communication received by my Office that two blocks have emerged, one for and the other against the Demonstrations, a situation which is a recipe for anarchy, I called for a meeting in my Chamber on 1st March, 2013 for all concerned parties including Paladin. It was only you that failed to turn up for the meeting out of all the invited concerned parties yet on the previous day you personally assured me that you would attend in person.

.On 5th March, 2013 Paladin organised an interface meeting where all concerned businessmen were invited in order to map out the way forward as regards issues affecting them and you did not turn up either.

.On 7th March a DEC meeting was organised whereby I agreed with you to attend and promised to provide a platform where Paladin would respond to your concerns, you never showed interest but rather emailed me a memo that there would be the final meeting at the DC with stakeholders and the Police on the planned demonstration. Be informed that you

Bambe said Silungwe’s behavior demonstrates gross insubordination to District authorities including the Paramount Chief saying all along he had not been cooperative .

Silungwe told NyasaTimes that the demonstrations will go ahead as planned.

“I am coming from the field for mobilization rallies. That communication will not deter us,” Silungwe told NyasaTimes on Thursday.

Bambe further said the office of the District Commissioner is not a party to the planned demonstration because you want to involve it in bad faith. Its doors are, however still open for further discussions as long as you stop being slippery.

“By copy of this letter, the Officer in Charge for Karonga Police Station and Ipiyana Police Mobile Service are asked to be alert throughout to ensure that no service is disrupted and immediately contain any act of aggression within and outside the planned areas,” he said.

NGOs differences on Demos

The Tutulane Pafikimo Business Association claimed in a press release issued on February 22, 2013 that in conjunction with the Karonga Business Association, Karonga General Traders, Karonga Beef Suppliers and Karonga Poultry Association that they have been against the idea of holding demonstrations against Paladin.

Similarly, the Karonga Youth for Justice and Development (KYJD) said it is against the planned demonstrations saying the move is likely to affect the local economy.

In November 2012, Paladin paid Karonga Youth for Justice and Development MK900,000 to stop similar demonstrations which were slated for 14 –17 November, 2012.

But this time around to Paladin Energy Limited General Manager for International Affairs Greg Walker said his company has not paid any organization.

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