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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Loss of lake dispute documents signifies irresponsibility

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The rebirth of a wrangle between Malawi and Tanzania over Lake Malawi in 2012 has been making headlines since that time.

And that would have given any well-meaning establishment time to put its resources together in preparation for other avenues the arguing parties might want to explore.

In fact, when the issue entered mediation, it was expected that this long-standing dispute would be laid to rest.

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In all essence, Malawi needs to have documents to buttress its claim that the whole lake belongs to us.

Which is why it is worrisome to hear that officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation yesterday told the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament that it lost all original documents on the ongoing disagreement.

This recklessness has obviously put Malawi in an awkward position if the country were to argue for its case on Lake Malawi.

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How can Malawi defend its position that the boundary with Tanzania follows the shoreline of the lake disputing Tanzania’s claim that it owns a section of the northern part of the lake in the absence of authentic documentation?

Principal Secretary in the ministry, Isaac Munlo, said the loss of documents is due to chaotic filing system of documents and lack of systems of data keeping; hence, only photocopies of the original documents were found.

But all along the ministry and almost anyone know that if there is no proof of existence of original copies, photocopied documents are easily contested.

Even though the ministry has said it is engaging the Department of Antiquities to help it modernise the filing system of documents, the sad thing is that important documents such as those to do with the ownership of the lake have already been lost.

It must be borne in mind that Lake Malawi supports lives of millions of Malawians. And it is unthinkable to relegate its ownership to fate.

Some of these issues are avoidable. Surely, important documents cannot be lost just like that. This just shows that some people, somewhere are not doing their job. They have to be taken to task.

The mediation talks over the ownership of the lake have been moving at a snail’s pace since they started about five years ago. We are not sure what other documents will be lost along the way.

Even the photocopies may also vanish into thin air.

The sooner we become serious in all we are doing, the better.

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