At every given opportunity, one Bingu wa Mutharika, who was the third president of Malawi (God bless his soul), always reminded us all that it is not true that Malawi, a country which is blessed with abundant resources, is poor. In his considered view, he had argued that it is the people that are poor in mind as they cannot take advantage of the natural resources the country is endowed with.
This picture popped up in my mind recently when reports emerged that some government officials had planned to ship off to Asia a huge precious rock, that had originally been confiscated from some China nationals and a Malawian who were ordered to serve jail time for illegal mining and indeed attempting to smuggle the precious rock (quite huge, I must say). Now, what we know is that the minister responsible for mining was astounded when he saw that gigantic rock, which could not even fit into what was probably a 20 foot container, making waves on social media and immediately sprung into action. He probably had realised that someone had tried to ‘pull a blanket over his head’ because we are told that he had seen a memo in his office, advising him of the transaction involving the said quartz rock.
We are talking of a rock weighing 25-tonne ladies and gentlemen (utmost, we are looking at something that can occupy two 10-tonne trucks and a five-tonne one) and this stuff is, among other things, used as raw material when making components for cellular phones, wall clocks and jewelry. And to think that all this had been priced at a mere K2 million makes me sick to my stomach.
In the words of the responsible minister, Rashid Gaffar, who has since put on ice the planned sale, such precious rocks are said to be worth within the region of K170 million, hence it beats logic how the officials arrived at the meagre price tag. In their desperate attempt to defend their decision, the officials claim the Quarts rock had been assessed and valued. But, just like the minister, Malawians too are curious and would not mind having a second opinion, in as far as the value of the 25-tonne rock is concerned.
In fact, this just goes to show that there must have been an element of truth in claims by the civil society that there are certain individuals at Mining who have been reaping the fruits while precious minerals, disguised as samples, have been shipped across the ocean, never to return.
We seriously need to re-examine whether the country is, at all, drawing meaningful benefits from all the sanctioned and unsanctioned mining activities taking place in different parts of the country.
For a minute, one would have thought that the civil society, which has been relentless in demanding transparency and accountability from the authorities when it comes to mining issues, had a bone to pick with Capital Hill but things on the ground seem to prove otherwise.
I am left to wonder as to how many other ‘dealings’ are happening within the public system, where clearly those that Malawians employed as civil servants are finding a leeway through which to ‘sanitise’ underhand activities. In fact, I will not be surprised to hear that no one was taken to task on the matter raised above as we were told by the minister that some of the officers are at liberty to dispose of such seized minerals without getting a go-ahead from his office.
Apart from illegal mining activities, I shudder to think about what could be happening on our water bodies, forests and every natural resource that we have been gifted with.
Let us not toy around with the abundant resources we have; it could do wonders to the economy if well exploited by laid down structures and not shortcuts that would only serve the interests of selected individuals.
Of dirty romps in wrong places
As a media person and man, I am ashamed by the contents that were unpacked recently by the Malawi Human Rights Commission regarding the happenings at one parastatal organisation, revolving around someone who was the top most fellow at the institution. We are told that some female employees were literally at his mercy; and those that did not yield to his advances had a tough time surviving at the place.
It is a shame, ladies and gentlemen, that women, most of whom are already marginalised in the workplace when it comes to opportunities, should have their rights deliberately violated by a fellow adult. This is the more reason why we need to have vibrant systems when it comes to gender mainstreaming in workplaces to ensure that no person is taken undue advantage of, especially the women folk.
Please, no dirty romps in wrong places!
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).