Parly committee demand Sugarcane Estate compensation for locals

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament says it will help lobby for payment for 1700 people who have not yet been compensated following their relocation in order to pave the way for establishment of a vast sugarcane estate in Traditional Authority (TA) Khombeza and other surrounding TAs in Salima District.

Shadreck Namalomba talking to journalists in the sugarcane estate

PAC Chairperson, Shadreck Namalomba, said the committee will, among other things, push Parliament and Ministry of Finance to provide the MK560 million needed to pay the 1700 people who have been “waiting to be compensated for six years now”.

Namalomba was speaking over the weekend after the committee toured the sugarcane estate, sugar processing factory and other machinery in the farm.

The estate and infrastructure, stretching across 6000 hectares along the shores of Lake Malawi, are managed by Salima Sugar Company in partnership with the Government of Malawi through Green Belt Authority (GBA) in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

PAC members in a meeting with management of Salima Sugar Company

The two entities are utilizing newest technologies of drip irrigation on the farm, resulting in local workers acquiring essential skills of managing modern projects such as these.

The government has 40 percent shares in one of the country’s biggest sugarcane growing and processing business, reportedly benefitting hundreds of small holder farmers and giving employment to thousands of young people.

Both Namalomba and GBA acting chief executive officer Amon Mluwira confirmed that it is government’s responsibility to compensate the people that were moved from the sugarcane estate, saying “this was agreed upon in the PPP arrangement with Salima Sugar Company”.

Namalomba said it is worrying that even in the proposed 2021/2022 national budget, the MK560 million has not been given to GBA to enable the government agency pay the compensations.

“The sugarcane growing and processing business in Salima, is a worthwhile investment. It should not be distracted by small issues such as failing to compensate people. Parliament and the Ministry of Finance should immediately provide the money to GBA to pay those people,” said Namalomba.

He added that PAC “will not relent” in lobbying Parliament and Ministry of Finance to consider payment for the compensations “even if it means pushing them to do that just before the proposed 2021/2022 budget is passed”.

In his remarks, Mluwira commended the interface with PAC, saying it has helped clear “misconceptions” about issues of compensation, labour and ownership surrounding the sugarcane estate in Salima.

“People have waited for too long. There is anger all over. In fact, some of these people orchestrated illicit fires in some parts of the farm, resulting in the loss of about one billion kwacha revenue. So, we believe the Members of Parliament will indeed help us in lobbying for funds to compensate the people,” Mluwira said.

He added that 1300 people had been already paid MK300 million.

However, Mluwira said the sugarcane growing and processing business in Salima, currently being operated on only 1600 hectares out of the 6000, is making “steady progress” and that hectarage is “expected to increase to 2000” in the next financial year.

Nyasa Times understands that out of the 6000 hectares–4000 constitute the core land for growing of sugarcane by Salima Sugar Company and GBA, 1000 is meant for medium scale farmers, 550 is for small holder growers and 450 for other developments.

According to Mluwira–sugar production is now at 20,000 metric tonnes, the sugarcane currently standing in the field is 170,000 metric tonnes.

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