Angry Mulanje residents on Monday stoned and chased away Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, as part of their protest against a project that aims to tap water from Mulanje Mountain for supply to Blantyre City.
The minister represents Mulanje South Constituency where some of the protesters came from.
Chaponda wanted to tour the project site on the mountain but his journey was cut short.
The residents are demanding that the government plant trees in the mountain before the implementation of the water project.
The residents started their protests with insults towards Member of Parliament for Mulanje Pasani, Angie Kaliati, and continued when the minister and some Blantyre Water Board officials were briefing each other on the project and how they will travel to the project site.
Kaliati is a husband to outspoken Information Minister and government spokesperson, Patricia Kaliati.
Chaponda, however, intercepted the chants by calling Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje Mountain (CPM) Secretary General, David Majeweta.
The minister told the residents that he would address them on his way back from the project site but the angry residents could not take it.
They blocked the path to the mountain with rocks and branches of trees.
Thereafter, they started beating vehicles, on the minister’s convoy, with tree branches and Chaponda’s vehicle was pelted at.
Chaponda directed his wrath at senior police officers for Mulanje Police Station who he blamed for underrating the situation.
He accused them of sending few police officers to the scene.
“Officer-in-Charge you didn’t help us. You could have sent a lot of your officers. You should not have underrated the villagers,” Chaponda said in his address to the entourage which sought refuge at Hapuwani Lodge, at the boma, over 10 kilometres away from the scene.
BWB officials said they have been trying to reach out to the residents in the past three weeks but nobody entertained their attempts.
According to them, they have plans to plant trees in the mountain in the next tree planting season.
Majeweta said residents had a meeting with the minister in December last year where they agreed that the government would plant trees but nothing has happened.
“So come rain, come sunshine we will not allow this project to commence until they plant the 3,500 hectares that Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) cut,” Majeweta said.
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