By Yohane Symon:
The pouncing on the suspects, some of them are from Mozambique, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), comes barely a week after some people of Mangochi delivered a petition to President Peter Mutharika, through the district commissioner’s Office, asking him to evict the suspected illegal miners they accuse of contributing to environmental degradation and employing school-going children.
People of Mangochi want only licensed miners to be operating so that the district should be benefitting from the mining activities.
The suspects have since been handed over to police where they are expected to be charged with illegal settlement in a protected forest reserve and conducting illegal mining.
The foreigners face an additional charge of illegal immigration, a crime which attracts a lengthy sentence.
Mangochi police spokesperson, Roderick Maida, confirmed that they received the suspects after MDF soldiers patrolled the areas following a directive from Mutharika after people of Mangochi demonstrated against illegal mining activities on Wednesday last week.
As of Thursday afternoon, Mangochi police were preparing to transfer the suspects, who include 20 women, to Zomba Maximum Prison where they will be remanded pending trial.
“Everything about the case for these suspects will be done in Zomba.
“We have just processed their transfer [documents] from Mangochi to Zomba Prison,” Maida said.
Dickens Mahwayo, spokesperson of the concerned people who presented the petition to Mutharika last week, said they were happy that the President has acted on their concerns.
Mahwayo said they expect the soldiers to prolong their stay in the area so as to ensure the eviction of all illegal miners.
Mangochi District Forest Officer, Leonard Kamangadanzi, Thursday said they would visit the area next week so as to assess the extent of the damage to the forest
Mining is not fully exploited in Malawi and contributes just one percent to the country’s gross domestic product. Cases of illegal mining are common across the country.
Malawi’s biggest mine is Kayerekera in Karonga District but its operations were suspended years ago due to a decline in prices of uranium on the world market.
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