Malawi government has ordered all companies involved in oil and gas exploration in the country to immediately stop their operations until government scrutinizes how exploration licenses were granted by the former administrations which included that of Joyce Banda and of Bingu wa Mutharika.
Ironically, a balk of the exploration licenses was granted during the time of Bingu wa Mutharika with his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which is now back in government under his younger brother Arthur Peter Mutharika.
In a statement released by the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining the Malawi Government says that the review of the licenses and agreements is to ensure that they are “for the benefit of the people of Malawi and were done in accordance with all the relevant laws of the country.”
The statement has been signed by Secretary for Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Ben Botolo.
“I therefore give notice to all companies that are involved in oil and gas exploration in Malawi to immediately cease all operations in relation to the granted oil and gas exploration licences until the review that is currently underway, regarding the manner and the procedures that were followed is finalized,” says Botolo.
He adds: “This will allow Government to thoroughly scrutinize and review each and every License and Agreement that was issued and signed.”
The order comes amidst an outcry from the majority of Malawians that despite the country having a lot of natural resources which include minerals and now oil and gas, it is only a few and particularly those in high offices who benefit from the proceeds of such resources.
Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates (UAE) firm, RakGas, has gained support from local communities as it gears to start preliminary oil exploration activities in Malawian districts under Block Five.
Chimwemwe Chikuse, a RakGas official, explained that the firm intends to have a strong partnership with communities they will be operating in and expressed support for community involvement in various agreements pertaining to resources.
Through the Department of Mines and District Councils, the company engaged community leaders comprising chiefs, councilors and members of Parliament (MPs) in Mulanje, Machinga, Zomba, Chiradzulu, Thyolo and was later this week expected to interact with local leaders in Phalombe and Blantyre—all of which fall under Block 5.