Mangochi: Mangochi District Council on Friday asked government to immediately evacuate illegal miners and settlers from Namizimu Forest Reserve in Makanjira, describing the current situation as a disaster.
The officials made the call during an extraordinary council meeting which the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and Forestry Department called to discuss the situation and chart the way forward.
Director in the Department of Mines, Jaffu Salima made a presentation on the situation at Namizimu Forest Reserve in Mangochi, where he said, over 1000 people from different nationalities including Angola, Benin and DRC were settled and engaged in illegal mining activities.
Salima said the illicit mining activities were impacting negatively on the country’s natural resources and land, among other things.
There is loss of biodiversity and revenue for the country and the activities expose the environment to soil erosion, sedimentation of water courses and formation of sinkholes, Salima observed.
He added that the activities were also putting the lives of people in danger as they do not use necessary protective gear while pits and trenches left after excavation of earth turn into death traps to people and animals.
Salima also bemoaned growing cases of human trafficking and prostitution at the area which puts lives of people at the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections including HIV and Aids.
He, therefore, challenged the council to join hands with government in finding lasting solutions to the situation at Namizimu Forest. However, his sentiments angered the council members who accused government officials of dilly-dallying on the matter.
This is a disaster and these people have been in the forest for over a year now and here we are, discussing way forward We want them out, now! said Mangochi Masongola Member of Parliament, Rashid Pemba.
Pemba’s remarks were unanimously seconded by Mangochi South and Mangochi Makanjira legislators, Lillian Patel and Benedict Chambo, respectively, who did not hide their anger, describing the situation at the forest as: ‘kid-gloves approach and passiveness that Malawians are known for even during critical times like the one at hand.’
At the end, the house unanimously agreed that the illegal miners should be evacuated immediately and without warning but the officials from Lilongwe insisted on the need to sensitize the people and surrounding communities first.
Meanwhile, government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has released a stop order on all illegal mining in Malawi by July 20, 2018.
The ministryorders all persons involved in illegal exploration, mining and trading of minerals including those operating in Namizimu Forest Reserve to stop the malpractice by July 20, 2018, reads the order.
Anyone found engaging in illegal mining will be evicted and prosecuted according to the laws of Malawi, it further reads.
Sensitization of the communities around Namizimu Forest began immediately on Friday after the meeting and it is expected to run up to July 20th before effecting forceful expulsion.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA