Malawi villagers protest over US$50m Mota Engil’s investment project

People in Malawi’s lake shore district of Mangochi are up in arms against a US$50 million hotel and golf course project which multinational company Mota Engil plans in the area.

The communities mainly around Monkey Bay, a lake shore town and a proposed area of the project, are fearing that almost 20,000 people will be displaced in the course of its implementation. The project is expected to take up almost 100 hectares of land.

Government has already allocated the land to Mota Engil but the communities said the land is ‘too huge’ amd the project is ‘misguided’ as it will affect more people than those who will benefit from it.

“The intended project land size is too huge and taking away land of over 20, 000 indigenous Malawians,” reads a petition from the communities presented to the government through Mangochi District Commissioner Bester Mandele on Tuesday.

“The project is intended to cover an area which is already developed with organized structures, roads and four cemeteries. The land also includes facilities such as two secondary schools with a combined enrollment of over 1,200, (and) a Catholic sisters’ boarding school,” reads part of the petition.

 People in Mangochi protest over Mota Engil project
People in Mangochi protest over Mota Engil project

The communities also say that plans were underway to construct a primary school in the same area while there is also a sub-District head office also under construction.

At least 100 community members including chiefs, religious leaders and business personnel have signed the petition.

The communities also attacked the proposed investor Mota Engil, which currently runs a fleet of water vessels under the Malawi Lake Services, of being insensitive to the needs of the communities in the years that it has been operating in the district.

“Our own observation has been that the proposed investors have proved difficult to mutually coexist with the locals as evidenced by the prohibitive fee Malawians are asked to pay to access lake services premises. We feel such an investor does not deserve another land that will also see people being displaced as well as loss of their valued property,” says the

Mota Engil’s Projects Coordinator Austin Msowoya said the project is at proposal level and that the government was yet to finally hand over the land to the Portuguese construction company.

He played down fears that public facilities will be removed saying all schools, churches and other public facilities will remain intact as the project will only be restricted to Masasa area, and not Monkey Bay where the communities are protesting not to have the project.

Masasa is an area where the Malawi government had previously designated land for a five-star hotel and tourist facility but did not have money to implement the project.

 Receiving the petition Mandele said the project started at the highest level and it has not reached the council for his office to make its own assessment of the investment.

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