Malawi Immigration officials raid Paladin’s Kayerekera mine

Malawi Immigration Department officials on Tuesday morning raided Paladin’a Kakerekera uranium mine in the northern border district of Karonga to check on foreignors if they had the right to work following media reports of illegal lags.

An immigration official said they raided the mine following revelations that  foreigners  are working at the company  without proper immigration clearance.

“We do not underestimate the value of media reports and act quickly to investigate allegations,” one of the Immigrations officials told Nyasa Times. He opted not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The Immigration officers came in a van and brought work at the mine at standstill.

According to published reports, there are foreignors working full-time Paladin’s mine in Karonga without temporary employment permits (TEPs).

Paladin Africa boss Greg Walker dismissed the matter as “untrue.”

Walker told Nyasa Times in an email: “PAL employees have not worked for years without TEPs, as alleged. All employees have TEPs or have TEP applications lodged and pending.”

Paladin Africa boss Greg Walker: Claims all employees have necessary papers
Paladin Africa boss Greg Walker: Claims all employees have necessary papers

He added: “  There is an issue with Malawi Immigration with regard to delays in processing TEPs. This is a matter we have taken up with Malawi Immigration.”

Some of the foreign lags are reportedly using temporary residence permits (TRPs) that have outlived their lifespan whereas others are still at the mine despite the Immigration Department rejecting their permit applications.

An official record of 98 expatriates at Kayelekera shows that some of them have used TRPs for well over two years now despite the Immigration Department stating that a TRP, which lasts six months, can only be renewed once.

It has also been revealed that some foreigners are in menial jobs such as welding, fitting, plumbing, secretarial, mechanics, building, security, carpentry and catering, which locals can ably do—contrary to legal provisions of the land.

This is also in contravention of the agreement Paladin signed with Malawi Government prior to mining kick-off.

Among other things, the agreement states that the Australian company should employ foreigners only if it cannot get local skilled labour.

According to the reports, Paladin has retrenched Malawians to bring in expatriates from South Africa and Australia.

A national Sunday paper reported that Paladin retrenched Mulinda Chawinga who worked as a diesel mechanic and replaced him with Andrew van der Merwe.

Charlie Croft  was meant to leave at the end of his contract, but when Paladin retrenched fitter Chabuka Kamwendo, Croft took up the position, thereby extending his stay in Malawi.

Chef Louise Phiri was retrenched only to be replaced by expatriate Laurent Mithieu.

McDonald Jere, who worked as warehouse coordinator and an understudy of Alistair Barbour, who heads that section, was retrenched and Jere’s former subordinate Ben Coetzee took charge.

Immigration spokesperson Martha Sanyala-Gonondo  acknowledging that TRPs have a six-month lifespan only renewable once— meaning they can only be used for 12 months.

“The chief immigration officer has authority to allow key personnel to start work while their permits are under process. Much as the department wishes to have all foreigners to have work permits before they take up employment posts in Malawi, it is not always possible because of the bureaucracy that exists within the system which leads to delays in issuing the permits,” Gonondo is on record saying.

However, ministry on mining officials said  Paladin is not doing enough to train Malawians to take up leadership positions as is the case in Namibia. PAL is said also to deliberately creating a hostile environment for top local Malawian managers take up employment at the mine.

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