Karonga Business Community (Kaba) recently met Vice-President Khumbo Kachali to complain that Paladin Africa procures most of its services and goods from outside the country, a development which the group said is against the contract the company signed with government.
Paladin country director Greg Walker has disputed the claim and asked Kaba to provide proof.
But Kaba insisted at a press briefing it held in Karonga on Saturday that Paladin buys eggs and meat from Namibia and South Africa when the country has plenty of these products.
â€œSince Paladin came here, Kaba has not benefitted anything; hence, we asked the Vice-President to intervene. We believe the company is just exploiting our natural resources and doing nothing to fulfil pledges it made,â€ said Chagunyuka Mhango who was flanked by his secretary Wakisa Mwenifumbo and treasurer, John Phiri.
He also alleged that Paladin is hiring vehicles from abroad to transport raw materials from the mine when local transporters have capacity to do this.
Asked if local transporters have capacity to provide transport to the Australian firm, Mhango argued that in its contract with government, Paladin agreed to build capacity of local businesspeople.
â€œWe have eggs and meat here and yet Paladin is buying these things from Namibia and South Africa. So, where is local empowerment here?â€ asked Mhango.
Kaba also complained that in its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with government, Paladin pledged to use local lodges and rest houses for its employees, but the company has erected a camp at the mining site where its workers lodge.
In view of the agreement Paladin made with government, some Kaba members borrowed money from commercial banks to build lodges and refurbish their homes to accommodate employees from the mining company. Unfortunately, Paladin is not giving them business.
But Walker described Kabaâ€™s claims as untrue.
â€œThere is no proof to their claim. I also wrote the Vice-President and said the same thing,â€ he said.
Walker said out of its 20 vehicles, Paladin hired 15 from local people.
He also denied claims that the mining firm buys eggs, meat and other foodstuffs from abroad, saying everything is bought locally.
â€œThe only things bought from Namibia are done through a tender and even that is done when locals fail to meet certain specifics. That is also done when the local goods are not competitive. But we try to prioritise local purchase,â€ said Walker.
He asked Kaba to look into the positive side of the company which is developing the water system and upgrading Karonga Airport into international standard.
But Phiri said Paladin is upgrading the airport to accommodate its planes and locals will not benefit anything from the development.
Phiri asked the Vice-President to turn Karonga into a municipality, claiming the district has all the qualifications.