The Daily Times, Malawi, published an opinion piece “Carlsberg, Paladin, Limbe Policy subject of the thumb” in which Thom Khanje criticised Paladin’s lack of engagement with the media and its poor relations with the general public,
A few weeks ago, I published on this column a letter I sent to Paladin Energy’s Managing Director John Borshoff in which I complained about the company’s lack of respect for Malawians through their non-responsiveness to media queries from Malawi.
A few weeks ago, some two courageous community groups in Karonga, where Paladin Africa operates the Kayelekera Uranium Mine, organised protests against the company’s unfulfilled social responsibility promises as well as its failure to support local businesses and farmers through its preference for imported items for its food and other provisions.
To put the record straight, Kayelekera is an important project in the country which every Malawian should be proud of as it is significant not only for job creation, government revenue contribution and foreign currency earnings but also as a flagship foreign direct investment in the country which can encourage other international corporations to consider investing in Malawi.
However, the perception about the company among Malawians is not positive not because the people just don’t like the investment but because of the way management of the company has conducted itself since their establishment.
Despite their profile as an established company from a developed and democratic country, Australia, where corporation operates based on acceptable corporate governance principles such as transparency and accountability, Paladin Energy’s image in Malawi is that of a closed, secretive, agrarian and mysterious giant that has ring-fenced itself as a foreign island within Malawi.
For example, apart from employees and senior government officials, which other Malawians can claim to have set their foot in the Kayelekera Mine complex in Karonga?
Can’t the company organise study tours for primary, secondary and university students at the company to enable them appreciate the business of mining uranium in their own country?
Can’t the company invite journalists and civil society leaders to visit its operations and engage with management in seminar like sessions where comprehensive information would be provided complete with question and answer sessions?
The protest which failed to take place against the company a few weeks ago should serve as a wake-up call to the company about the intense negativity of its business among Malawians.
Their stated commitment to uphold transparency and accountability about the Kayelekera Uranium Mine is not enough. They need to demonstrate that actively and walk the talk. Otherwise, they should expect more resentment and civil action in the coming years as Malawians are no longer a passive society that sits back and watch helplessly when other people are exploiting their resources over their heads in the name of foreign investment. Thumbs down Paladin Energy.