EDITORIAL with Marcel Chimwala
Grey areas for Masi, bright spots for Msaka. Congratulations!
We join stakeholders in the extractives sector in welcoming Lilongwe City West Member of Parliament, Mr. Aggrey Masi, as the new Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.
As the stakeholders are quoted in our main article, Mr. Masi, who does not have any experience in this job, has a massive role to play in addressing pertinent issues at the Ministry.
In the mining sector, as the Minister himself acknowledges, there is this outstanding issue of tabling the Revised Mines and Minerals Bill which is rotting at Capital Hill despite strong advocacy from the civil society to see it passed.
All along, Malawians have been speaking loudly that only a privileged few are benefitting from mining activities in the country because of lack of adequate legal framework as the country continues to use the Mines and Minerals Act (1981) which is deemed archaic and outdated.
The Revised Mines and Minerals Bill, among other things, has a provision for companies to sign community development agreements so certainly when this law is enacted, it will be a solace to communities who feel they are not adequately benefitting from the natural resources that are being depleted in their areas.
In essence, the issue of the bill needs to be urgently addressed, Mr. Masi, because communities, who are angry with the delays in enacting the new law will not be appeased with any political rhetoric. They need action!
The other grey area that Mr. Masi has to look at is this issue of government indecisiveness on handling issues to do with mining investment.
For instance, in 2014 when Peter Mutharika ascended to power, the Ministry suspended oil exploration licences saying they were reviewing terms for the licences and after over a year, the suspension was lifted.
We feel blundering of that nature is a disincentive to investment, which the new Minister must check against as it certainly has a negative impact on exploration schedules and dents Malawi’s image as an investment destination of choice.
The other significant issue which the Minister must address is that of corruption and greed which is said to be rife not only in his Ministry but in the whole government set up.
For example, there is the issue of the Kangankunde Rare Earth Project in Balaka, which is one of the most promising mining ventures but it is failing to take off because of poor handling of the investment by greedy politicians which has resulted in legal wrangling between the original tenement holder whose licence was not renewed and the government.
We hope the new Minister will not want to be in the group of such greedy politicians and with the strides that Malawi has made in joining the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), issues of corruption on mining issues will be an occurrence of the past.
As Consulting Geologist, James Chatupa, is quoted in our main article, we also hope to see Mr. Masi continuing from where his predecessor left on issues at the Ministry. We do not expect renegotiation of licences, suspensions and other political actions that will disturb progress on mining projects.
All in all, we congratulate Mr. Masi for the new crown and his predecessor Mr. Msaka who is now Minister of Education. Your open door policy, Mr. Msaka was an inspiration and we hope Mr. Masi will follow suit.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 52 (August 2017).