At the beginning of February, Wavisanga Silungwe, the chairperson of Karonga Business Community, asked “Why have Paladin in Malawi?” when he announced that he had resumed plans to demonstrate against Paladin Africa Ltd., the operator of Malawi’s largest mine, Kayelekera Uranium Mine. Today Nyasa Times reported that other groups in Karonga are not supporting this planned protest.
The protests, planned for the 12th to the 26th of March, are driven by the organiser’s belief that the local communities are not benefiting from the mine, the company has not invested as much as it claims in community development projects and the environment is being damaged from the operation. During the protest, Paladin’s vehicles will be prevented from transporting goods and people to and from the mine site, according to a press release from the Karonga Business Community, signed by Silungwe on the 12 February 2013.
Now it appears that several business groups are not supporting the protests because they are in discussions with Paladin management over business concerns, according to Nyasa Times. In a statement from the 22 February 2013, the groups, including Tutulane Pafikimo Business Association, the Karonga Business Association, Karonga General Traders, Karonga Beef Suppliers and Karonga Poultry Association, suggested that they are not clear which businesses Silungwe claims to represent.
Silungwe is well known as he was one of the organisers of a demonstration planned for the 14 to 17 November 2012 over claims that Paladin has failed to honor its social development commitments. Led by Karonga Youth for Justice and Development (KYJD), the protest was called off at the last minute following meetings between senior Paladin staff, the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Energy and Mining and KYJD. KYJD announced that they had been “misinformed and that claims were not a true reflection of what Paladin had agreed to carry out for the people of Karonga”.
KYJD is not supporting Silungwe’s protests this time due to fears that the planned demonstrations will have an adverse effect on the local economy.
Despite the diminished support for Silungwe, who has come under attack before, he says the protests will go ahead. He believes, for example, that the mine could source more foodstuff from the local community. At present, he is sensitising local communities on the upcoming demonstrations,
We want to civic educate the community on how we should conduct peaceful and unarmed demonstrations. This will take us to Kayerekera village. We will also engage police on this exercise.
For further information on the proposed demonstration, read an article we published earlier this month, “‘Why Have Paladin in Malawi?’ Asks the Man Behind Plans for Next Month’s Demonstration” (13 February 2013).