By Wezzie Gausi:
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has written the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to institute investigations into allegations of human rights violations at Lisikwa and Hara coal mines in Karonga District.
CCJP, which is implementing the Enhancing Social Accountability in Local Governance to Reduce Inequalities for an Inclusive Malawi project using funds from Norwegian Church Aid, says this in a letter we have in our possession.
The letter, which CCJP National Coordinator Boniface Chibwana has signed, indicates that the commission observed some human rights violations at the mines in the course of implementing activities.
Some of the alleged abuses outlined in the letter are that coal fire is endangering lives of mine workers and their families, coal mine workers are being paid below the minimum wage.
Other issues highlighted are that there is non-payment of compensation to injured people or families of dead coal mine workers as well as harsh working conditions for coal mine workers, including the absence of conditions of service and written contracts, among others.
“These allegations have spurred an investigation to be taken by your [MHRC] office. We thus raise a supplementary emerging issue which we believe should be investigated by your office,” the letter reads.
MHRC Director of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Makhumbo Munthali confirmed that they have received the letter from CCJP.
He said, after screening CCJP’s complaint, the commission has agreed to investigate the matter.
“However, granted that we received a similar complaint from Karonga Civil Society Network earlier this year but failed to investigate due to resources, the commission has further decided to merge both submissions in its investigations to roll out soon.
“The investigation will also look at the allegations that were reported in Malawi News concerning these mines. The commission has finally secured funds to enable it to investigate these alleged violations in the next few weeks,” Munthali said.
Earlier this year, Times Group publications carried out an investigation into the alleged abuses people working under coal mines face in Karonga District.