Will Mpoto ever benefit from its vast natural resources?

Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and the Most Excellent Grand Commander and Achiever or MEGA-1, Al Hajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), The Most Paramount Authority Mzee Mandela and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, are still here in Nkhata Bay.

Our friend, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), is still looking for Joyce Banda in every corner, every haystack, every dustbin and every house armed with a seven-month-old warrant of arrest. The truth is that akudya money. He reports that his daily subsistence allowance is not bad and promises that our expedition will never run short of cash when, but we believe it should be if, he returns to the group.

Today, we will attend the Umtheto, the Ngoni cultural festival that celebrates its wars and eventual subjugation of the natives. Appropriately, it is traditionally held at or near the Hola Mountain where, legend says, Baza Dokowe put up some resistance to the Ngoni armies, but was eventually defeated. Legendis can be fiction. Legend can be truth. Legend can be legendary.

Yesterday, we planned to deliver a petition to Viza Rubber Company but withdrew it because we considered our language rather incendiary. We agreed to rework the petition and serve it on the management of that company later. When exactly? We will tell you later.

You see, those who have been to Nkhata Bay must have marvelled at the picturesque beauty the Viza Rubber Estate gives. This estate has been here for more than 100 years already. This means that it was almost 50 years old when the Catholic Church constructed Nkhata Bay Secondary School, the national secondary school, which no longer accommodates people from Nkhata Bay and other districts.

Nkhata Bay Secondary is virtually surrounded by pala, as rubber trees are called locally. The school the Catholic missionaries built for the children of Nkhata Bay is crumbling, yet Viza Rubber Estate is prospering and eating without dropping any crumbs. Chief Chibaka’s home is collapsing,  yet day in, day out Viza Rubber Estate tractors and others machinery pass by his tiny home, with no electricity.  Viza has 24 electricity. What happened to social responsibility?

In the Viphya Plantations, at least Raiply is giving back to the community through school desks and school blocks. Why can’t Viza just repair and equip Nkhata Bay Secondary School? There is a primary school at Chombe, right at border with the pala plantation, which is in a state of neglect and dilapidation. Viza Rubber Estate is there watching and smiling with its eyes closed.

We hear that in some countries such as Rwanda, social responsibility is mandatory. All companies have to give back to the community. They do so legally because Rwanda has a law that regulates social responsibility projects. For Rwandans, quality matters.

If Malawi had a similar law, Mpoto would have been benefitting from its vast resources. For more 30 years, the Malawi Government, through its contracted companies, has extracted coal from the Kaziwiziwi and Mchenga area in Rumphi but nothing, except pulmonary infections, has gone back to the community.  Strangely, the headquarters of the Kaziwiziwi and Mchenga Coal Mines are in Lilongwe; not in Rumphi, not even in Mzuzu.

The Kayekera Uranium Mine in Karonga came and it is almost gone. It has left behind a lot health complaints and worries about radiation and pollution. The miners and others have taken away all the precious material and are now drinking coffee and smoking cigars somewhere in Australia and Lilongwe.

We will not dwell on the decimation of the Viphya Plantation because it is a story that makes us vomit. We will, however, mention that we are watching as the tones of precious metals and rare earths are packaged into 40 foot containers and shipped abroad from Luwawa in Nkhata Bay. We will soon react and don’t blame us when that day comes. We have suffered 100 years of exploitation and we cannot stomach that any longer.

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