Lunzu communities block quarry mining by Chinese firm


… Suspects precious mineral to be drilled not quarry

Angry communities in Group Village Head Manesi Kapeni in Lunzu, Blantyre, are denying government – through a Chinese company – access to start mining quarry stones in the area.

Lunzu community members

The development follows government’s announcement that it wants to drill quarry stones in the area which would be used for the construction of the Blantyre bypass road which was launched by President Peter Mutharika in 2018. The road is being constructed by a Chinese company.

However, members of the community are suspicious and believes that government is playing a hide and seek game claiming it’s not quarry stones but precious stones which are to be mined.

According to one of the concerned community members who asked for anonymity, over 30 households from Manesi and Wedi villages would be relocated to an undisclosed location which this publication understands is Neno district a development which has fuelled the tension.

The source continued to say communities are further faulting government for being secretive on the project saying they are only seeing Chinese nationals coming to their villages asking them to leave and pave the way for mining activities.

“To our surprise it is as if government had just woken up one day and decided on the project. What is so difficult for government to share the development plan with the local community concerned when it is directly affecting.

“What is missing here is information on who conducted such and how do they arrive at. Why the government gave someone MK500,000 for a house and farming land which has trees and other plantations?” the source said.

The community members further said it is unfair to relocate them to another area claiming they settled in these villages in 1958 after being transferred from Soche because there was a project at a place where their village was.

Speaking to Malawi24 on the matter, Godfrey Mfiti, Executive Director for Institute of Sustainable Development which is facilitating the matter, said they are getting information from all concerned parties.

Mfiti however said his organization is concerned by government’s failure to consult the local community on the matter with understanding that every citizen has a right to know such projects.

He said from the look of things, it seems the project is very secretive which is not supposed to be the case claiming it had to be known to all the members of the society and the communities in this particular.

“Information has over the period been withheld from them. It should be noted that development projects are not accidents they are planned and community members have a right to know if it is affecting them so that they too can plan their lives especially if they are to be relocated.

“The United Nations Human Rights Charter promotes Free Prior Informed Consent in any development project among local indigenous communities. Imagine­ the graveyard for these communities is also going to be part of the area to be mined,” said Mfiti.

Mfiti added that the community members are rightly placed to demand immediate attention and assistance of Blantyre District Commissioner and Senior Chief Kapeni because of the nature of the issue of land and relocation.

Last Friday, the Blantyre DC sent some representatives to discuss the matter with the communities and all the concerned parties but they were however chased by angry communities saying they want the DC himself.

These people are further accusing their chiefs, including Senior Chief Kapeni, of conniving with the authorities to sell their land to the Chinese saying they are surprised with Kapeni’s silence on issue.