Tilitonse gives voice to mining communities – stories from across Malawi

Tilitonse project gives voice to communities in mining areas

The second phase of the Tonse Tipindule project, which Norwegian Church Aid has executed with its partners namely Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Church and Society Department of the CCAP Livingstonia Synod, Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) and Qadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM) with funding from the Tilitonse Fund, has produced exciting results which include giving a voice to communities in mining areas. Courtesy of NCA and its partners, Mining & Trade Review has compiled the following case studies which outline how far Tonse Tipindule has gone in empowering rural communities, who are always sidelined by authorities on mining issues though exposed to environmental dangers posed by the industry:

Community voice changes tune of District Council

by Biswas Ismael, QMAM Programmes Officer

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Mangochi Mayera Mining Community

It came unexpectedly. As every member of Mayera community in Mangochi was busy with farming  activities, a cell phone rang. “Who is this?” Asked Mrs Stephano, the Chairlady of Mayera CAG as if there was someone to respond to her, yet knowingly she was alone.

Hello! This is Mr. Maluku, from Mangochi District Council. You are wanted here together with three other members from Njereza and Mayera tomorrow,

she accepted without asking the agenda.

When communicating to the other members of the community, she just told them that the agenda of the meeting will be known at the council the following day.

As agreed, by 8 o’clock in the morning they were at the Lands office at the District Council which is at a distance of 50 kilometers from Mayera, an area with a sizeable limestone deposit.

The Mayera area was marked for mining activities in 2009 when the government of Malawi gave a mining license to a local company Cement Products Limited, which planned to mine limestone for cement production. From 2012, the company started its cement manufacturing operations in the area using clinker bought from outside the country. In 2015 works on a clinker processing plant started and is expected to be in operation by April, 2017.

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Mangochi District Alternative Mining Indaba

The completion of the plant has seen the community being subjected to the actual experiences of mining activities as about 20 families from nine households have been marked to be displaced and are currently waiting for their compensation.

But what triggered the council to call the Mayera CAG chair? The process of opening the lime quarry mine has started with the district council together with the mining company putting the beckons marking the boundaries of the mine. This was followed by the compensation assessment processes by the District Council. During the assessment’s consultations, the council representatives prevented and tried to convince the mining victims that no one from the CAG should be part of the team following the compensation processes. However, Group Village Head Mapata stood his ground and the Mayera CAG put it clear that they will follow the processes and ensure that they provide those targeted for compensation adequate information about the processes. This left the council with no option but to call the CAG membership for a discussion at the district council offices.

During the meeting, the community representatives were asked to raise critical issues for their area before the completion of the compensation process but the CAG put it a point that the council together with representatives of Mangochi network of civil society organizations should go to Mayera and discuss the issues comprehensively with the community.

The community’s strong stand came as a result of the initiative that the Qadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM) brought to the area. QMAM empowered the communities surrounding the CPL mining and factory locations in Mangochi under the Tonse Tipindule Project, which aims at creating a mining regime that benefits all Malawians.

QMAM raised the capacity of local people in different areas ranging from the legal framework of the mining sector to the rights of the communities as well as the relocation and compensation issues.

From the initiation of the project in November, 2014, the community has changed greatly from being back bencher spectators on their own land to being a responsive community, strong enough to repel any moves aimed at reaping them of their entitlement

The officers from the Lands Department came and explained to us how issues of compensation need to be handled. We cannot, therefore, stand idle but ensure that what they trained us is really followed in the process,

said Mrs. Stephano.

Her statements attest to the fact that due to the magic wand unleashed by Tilitonse Fund in the form of the Tonse Tipindule Project, people of Mayera and Njeleza are empowered to fight for far compensation.

Community engages lawyers over unpaid compensation from Mota-Engil

by Biswas Ismael, QMAM Programmes Officer

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Ntcheu Alternative Mining IndabaAfter dragging Portuguese multinational Mota-Engil to the District Council in December 2015 for not giving the community the approved compensation for the destruction of gardens and crops during their drills and road construction works conducted as part of a mineral exploration programme, the members of the community have engaged lawyers to negotiate or take Mota-Engil to court for failing to compensate them.

Namisu, an area in TA Phambala is at a distance of 30 Km from Senzani area along the Zalewa road and at some 75 km from Ntcheu Boma. The area, which has a lot of hills, is a source of two rivers: Lisungwi and Likudzi which have for a long time exposed the hidden treasure of the area by washing down- stream some gold particles from the hills around Namisu.

On one beautiful morning some five years ago, GVH Kanama and his family were about to take their morning meal when they saw foreign people in his village. When he enquired he was told it was Mota -Engil, one of the giant foreign companies operating in Malawi and it was there to stay. The community could not have any substance in their speech as the word government to them was a silencer.

Mota-Engil has been in the area for over five years exploring gold and other minerals. Three years ago, the Ntcheu District Council together with the company made compensation calculations for the crops and gardens damaged during the exploration drills and road construction. GVH Kanama and his sister were among the victims of these drills as crops were destroyed, trees cut and gardens altered by the roads.

The air of hope came to GVH Kanama and other affected people when officials from Lands and Environmental Affairs Departments from Ntcheu boma visited the area and made compensation calculations which were accepted by the community, the district council and Mota Engil itself. On a sad note, later Mota Engil, according to GVH Kanama, said that it cannot honor its pledge because the amount was higher than the damage they had caused. The people did not know what to do and had nowhere to make their claim.

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Ntcheu GVH Kanama yet to be compensated by Mota Engil

In October, 2015 the Qadria Muslim Association of Malawi, under the banner of Tonse Tipindule Project went to Namisu and sensitized the people of their rights and deserving benefits from the mining company. This brought a sign of life again to the people of Namisu. GVH Kanama said he could see a change from “Tonse Tipwetekeke (all of us are going to be hurt)” to “Tonse Tipindule”.

The community could not hesitate but to approach for an interface with the mining company. However, to the dismay of everybody their request hit a snag. Then the community went to the District Council demanding that Mota Engil pays them their compensation but still the company stood its ground.

Few days later, Mota Engil informed the community that they were relocating their camp from Namisu to another unspecified location. GVH Kanama and his people have since sort the services of a lawyer to get their compensation.

Nthalire CAG partners a local community radio and scales up awareness campaign around mining governance

In 2013, Church and Society Programme (CSP) engaged Nthalire community in Chitipa with an objective to sensitize communities there on mining governance. The local stakeholders including Traditional Authority for the area welcomed CSP. Later, a committee of about 30 people was formed to act as a bridge between the project secretariat in Mzuzu and the wider local community. This group later came to be known as Nthalire Community Action Group (CAG).

Over the years, the group has been sensitized in a number of areas. Some of these include rights based approach to development, understanding extractives industry in Malawi, governance and extractive industry, transparency and accountability in mining, mining legislation and policies in Malawi, community development agreements, advocacy and lobbying, labor issues in Malawi and monitoring human rights violations within the extractives industry.

After being thoroughly capacitated, Nthalire CAG ensured that knowledge and skills gained were effectively trickled down to the rest of the community. They did this through organized community meetings, local plays, music and door to door meetings. The group also took to task individuals who violated the rights of others within Nthalire. Thus, on numerous occasions the group was called in to intervene in situations where some investors were stopped from taking samples from the area due to lack of proper documentation.

Despite numerous efforts already highlighted above in order to reach out to the entire community, it became clear that the illiterate and those in hard to reach areas or the   outskirts / remote parts of Nthalire were not reached. In order to reach out to this population, the group partnered with Nthalire community radio which operates in the area. This radio station covers a 100 km radius within Nthalire and beyond. Using support from the project, the group and radio station’s programmers designed a sponsored radio program that runs for 30 minutes. The group secured 20 radio slots and designed the program to run until November, 2016. Owing to continuous intermittent power supply that affected airing of some programs, additional radio slots were given for free to the group. These slots continue to run until now.

Through these sponsored radio programs, the group has managed to hold round table discussions and interacted with listeners from across the area through short messages as well as phone in programs.  In the initial programs, the group started by introducing itself, its objectives, composition, area of jurisdiction as well as the objectives of the program. Later the program dwelt on sensitizing the community on the aforementioned areas. During the programs, the community made their comments, observations, asked questions to which they were responded, and raised up their fears. The program again provided a platform where community members reported to the entire Nthalire thorny mining governance issues within their areas and how they dealt with some of them.

Through these radio programs, Nthalire CAG has   managed to win the support of its local structures such as Area Development Committee, chiefs and local civil society organizations. They have since proven critical in promoting and protecting the rights of people around    mining issues. The radio programs have again profiled CAG as a credible local advocacy group on mining issues in the area which is critical for sustainability purposes. It can, therefore, be said without fear of contradiction that people’s knowledge and skills around mining governance within the 100km radius have greatly improved.

Member of Parliament for Kanyika re-engages constituents over problems

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review MPs Meeting Mining Kanyika

Around September, 2016 an Area Development Committee (ADC) meeting was held at Emfeni in Traditional Authority Mabulabo in Mzimba district. The meeting was patronized by all members of ADC, Councilors, Member of Parliament (MP) plus civil society organizations. Among other issues, the MP was demanded to spare time and appreciate the   suffering of the people in Kanyika. The MP was also blamed for not showing any interest to support Kanyika community by raising the issue in Parliament. This angered the MP. Later in the month, the MP held a political rally where she accused CSOs, chiefs and the people of Kanyika of spreading lies and rumors against her in an effort to tarnish her credibility as an MP.

The MP effectively told off Kanyika Mining Native Forum (KAMNAF), chiefs and civil society groups in the area. This angered chiefs and KAMNAF members who thought their MP had overstepped her boundary. The community through KAMNAF organized to meet the MP and hit back. The MP was tipped about this and she chose to turn down any appointment that the Kanyika community proposed. Since October, 2016, the MP remained unwilling to meet the chiefs and KAMNAF. This increased anger among the community.

For over eight months, KAMNAF and their chiefs failed to successfully meet their MP over a round table discussion to resolve their differences. KAMNAF was convinced that this rift was unhealthy. It meant that their MP had ceased to represent them and would not voice out any of their concerns even in Parliament. KAMNAF agreed to make amends with the MP at any cost. They agreed not to hit back at the MP but rather engage in reconciliation.

With the change of attitude, on May 21, 2016, the MP bowed down and agreed to meet KAMNAF at Entandweni CCAP. The MP expected that the meeting would be full of finger pointing and accusations. To her surprise, the meeting was sober. The group and the chiefs called for a renewed working relationship with their MP. The MP   apologized for taking too long to respond to their call.

She said that she thought KAMNAF wanted to humiliate her in front of her constituents. During the meeting, KAMNAF raised to her problems that the people of Kanyika were experiencing. They included hunger, poverty and   unavailability of clean water. In response, the Member of Parliament informed the group that she would work with them to resolve the said problems. The MP promised to rehabilitate some of the dilapidated houses that belonged to the victims of relocation in the area.

She also asked that group to go back to the community and reprioritize their issues and organize another meeting where they will agree and plan together on how best to address their challenges.

In closing, the MP called upon the people of Kanyika to feel free to consult her on anything. The MP asked the community members to forget about the rift that had existed between them. KAMNAF, chiefs and the MP were all happy that the long awaited meeting had finally taken place and that all their differences were sorted out. KAMANF has once again successfully lobbied the support of their MP in the area. This is very encouraging since the project now enjoys good cordial working relationship with their MP and can now strategize together on how best to engage government and the mining investor in their area.

The Kanyika Community has displayed all this courage to engage stakeholders including the MP, the investor and the government all because of the support it has from the Church and Society Department of the Livingstonia Synod, which has empowered the community through awareness programmes on their right to be included on decision making regarding mining issues.

Australian group, Globe Metals and Mining, holds mineral rights for the Kanyika area and is mobilizing financing partners to launch mining operations at the site after completing feasibility studies.

CSR meeting helps communities uproot corruption by GVH in Mangochi

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Mangochi Mayera Mining Community CSR

In 2006, people of Mayera, an area that hosts a limestone deposit and located at a distance of 50km from Mangochi Boma, were surprised to see foreign people with their tools moving around, showing stones to each other, drilling holes in their gardens and nearby bushes and writing in their note books things the community members could not know. When traditional leaders of Mayera area built courage and asked who the people were, the foreign people’s response was simple, “we are from the government”.

As time went by, the people could not imagine that the drilling and notes taken would bring something new to their area. So early 2009, they could not believe that a factory was being constructed in Njereza to mine the limestones from Mayera. When the chiefs sought clarifications, they were told that Cement Products Limited (CPL) has been given a licence by the government to mine lime stones in their area for cement production. Upon hearing the word “government” the people were hopeless and conceded defeat without asking further questions because of fear.

Four years later, Qadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM) went to the area with a project named Tonse Tipindule: promoting increased inclusion, accountability and responsiveness in Malawi’s Mining Sector funded by Tilitonse Fund and coordinated by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). The project’s goal is to contribute towards improved social inclusion, accountability and responsiveness among duty bearers in Malawi’s mining sector.

Through the interventions under output two of the project which aims at improving engagement between CSOs, citizens and government (including mining investors), the QMAM project team has been implementing a number of interventions in the area which enlightened the people of their rights, roles and responsibilities on the mining activities happening in their area.

Further the community had an interface with the company where both parties raised their concerns and wishes. This resulted in the recognition of the community by the company and hiring members of the community, instead of a foreign contractor, to provide sands and stone to the company as part of a good gesture from the CPL Company towards the people of Mayera area. The Mayera community got organized into groups and engaged in sand and stones collections. One of the Chiefs, GVH Soliati was at his peak helping the community action group (CAG) responsible for mining activities in engaging the company to an extent that he started stealing from his own subjects by charging a fee of K1, 200.00 for every trip of sands and stones for which the company pays K10, 000.00 per a tipper trip of seven tones.

On 11th March 2016, QMAM project team conducted a sensitization meeting on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Mayera Primary School Ground where the community was informed that every development should address community needs and that they should stand and embrace a hard working spirit in any development activities that comes to the community due to the mining activity. Further QMAM edged the people of Mayera to engage the CPL Company whenever they feel things are not going on well. This sparked interest to the community who later asked their traditional leader why he was charging them a fee and for what purposes. The chief implicated the company and the community went to meet the CPL management who expressed ignorance on the matter saying that the workers deserve to get their full payment unless the community agrees that such an amount should serve a particular purpose to the community and upon agreement between themselves.

GVH Soliati on his part could not explain why he was charging the amount and it was agreed that the chief should not have a hand in anything that the company offers to the community and that all payments regarding sands and stones selling should be done at CPL accounts office to avoid such fraud. Currently, GVH Soliati has been reduced to size and left toothless.

2017-04 Malawi Mining & Trade Review Mangochi QMAM Programmes Officer interacts with CPL


This was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 48 (April 2017).

The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.


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