North Malawi should learn the vigilance of people among the Lhomwe Belt

Yes, you heard me right, just that. Of course, yes; minus the violence. What I like most about people of Mulanje, Thyolo and Phalombe is that they have learnt to fight for what they deem to be theirs. Endowed on them by their ancestors. No doubt, this is partly because their land was grabbed away from them by tea plantation owners.

Mulanje stood their ground not to allow government to commence the project until trees are planted on the mountain.

Several years back, the settlers came, colluded with some unsuspecting and greedy chiefs. The result was that they gave away huge swathes of land. They left the indigenous people on marginal land where the locals could be productive agriculturally. In Chichewa they say ndikhale nawo analanda malo.

One wishes people of Karonga and Mzimba learnt something from their Lhomwe brothers down South. The vigilance that people from these districts in the Southern Region has shown is now paying dividends.

Through a $23 million project, Blantyre Water Board (BWB) seeks to end water challenges in Blantyre and its surrounding areas. BWB has so far planted 20 000 pine trees around Mulanje Mountain. The board will be planting 100 000 trees every year for 10 years. This week saw the launch of a tree planting competition in Mulanje Mountain, Chambe Dam and Likhubula River catchment areas. This is a fulfillment of the promise that BWB made to restore vegetation in the mountain and catchment areas. The people in the area (rightly) view the resources such as trees in the Mulanje massif as their source of livelihood.

Community leaders in Mulanje have thus finally pledged to support BWB Likhubula Water Supply System Project. This has put to rest conflicts over the project. I can guarantee that BWB will never mess around with people of Mulanje and its surrounding areas.

If only people of Karonga were as vigilant when government awarded a 15-year license to Paladin of Australia to mine uranium. Paladin promised to build a school, a clinic, rehabilitate the airport in the district. The Government of Malawi was also supposed to get a cut from the deal. But little was known about how much this was. It soon dawned on people of Karonga and Malawians in general that government had signed a bad deal with Paladin. The whole issue was wrongly blamed on Malawi’s lack of mining expertise. But more importantly, it is right to say there was no transparency in the manner the whole deal was struck.

The Malawi Government has been accused of colluding with several mining companies to exploit natural resources at the expense of local communities who are promised other compensations that never come.

In Mzimba, people of Kanyika are crying wolf that for several years they have been told not to farm, or build new infrastructure on their only land as it is being prospected for niobium after government granted a license to Globe Metals & Mining of Australia to explore for niobium. The locals have been waiting to get compensation from the mining company which has never come.

But it is not only foreign mining companies that are exploiting Malawians. This is clear from the manner in which the mighty Viphya Plantation south of Mzuzu has been ravaged. The root causes of the mess are the regulatory loopholes, official corruption and complex flows of trade in wood across south-eastern Africa. These have cost Malawians millions of dollars annually in revenue from timber exports. Currently, only a tenth of the 53 501 hectares is covered by trees.

Chikangawa also known as Viphya Forest with an area of 560 km2 is billed as the largest man-made forest in Africa. The forest was started in 1964, and the trees were intended to be used for a pulp mill that would create wood pulp for export. However, due to an economic recession, the paper mill was never built. Since 2004, there has been little to show that government is in a position to arrest the plunder of the forest. Thousands of villagers who were relocated to give way to the plantation are poorer than before. The locals have not benefitted anything from Chikangawa Forest apart from being employed as labourers.

That is why I am saying I wish people of Karonga and Mzimba learnt something from their brothers in the Lhomwe Belt. They should never again allow government to come with ‘strangers’ without something tangible to uplift their lives. Yes, they should learn from their brothers down south.-Source; NPL

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4 years ago

People from the Lhomwe belt always fight for what is theirs. In 2012 Joyce Banda stole their presidency. In 2014 they fought for their presidency and got it back. Chakwera is trying to destabilize their presidency. I know the people from this belt. They will fight and defend what is theirs. I have no doubt they will successfully defend and protect it.

4 years ago

Just a couple of points: one to assert a fundamental point and the other, to expose an apparent contradiction or inconsistency. 1. The land in contention in the Lhomwe Belt was taken by force, all be it with the collusion or subjugation by certain chiefs, in the same way the best lands were grabbed by colonial occupiers brutally, in Mozambique, and equally brutally in Zimbabwe, and in blatantly racists and fascist fashion in South Africa. The occupiers were educated – they eventually had the titles to the lands. In Malawi, the situation I know of, these titled lands were developed… Read more »

4 years ago

I disagree with the author of this column, from the days of Kamuzu, people from North have deemed to be rebellious with Malawi Government, take a look at July 20 my brother. Just be reminded, people were protesting from that same Southern Region , but where was blood spilled.

Tisakambe ngati anthu akumpoto ndiwopanda nzeru, while we all know the facts, musalembenso zoputsa and zoonetsa kukhala wopanda nzeru to observe things when they are happening.

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