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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Transparency critical to mining contracts

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President Peter Mutharika’s admission that Malawi did not benefit from Paladin Africa-owned Kayelekera Mine in Karonga District, comes as a huge relief for it provides painful but necessary lessons to those who draft and sign such deals with mining multi-nationals.

We, therefore, commend Mutharika for making the admission on the mining deal when he hosted his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre yesterday.

Malawi can learn a great deal from countries such as Botswana whose mining industry has contributed to the development of that country.

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The issue is about adhering to mining legislation and also being shrewd on the negotiations table because mining multinationals will always have a big bargaining power when dealing with countries such as Malawi which are usually desperate for investors.

Therefore, it is our expectation that Mutharika and his government will go beyond merely expressing regrets over the Kayelekera mining deal and do a careful diagnosis of the flaws in the deal to ensure that there should never be a repeat of such a mistake.

We do not want to believe that those who negotiate such deals in Malawi are not cognisant of the need for ensuring that mining benefits poor Malawians who own the land.

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Like is the case with most deals, those entrusted with responsibility of negotiating such mining contracts sometimes betray the nation by focusing on personal benefits at the expense of mother Malawi.

It is sad to say that such deals are at the mercy of politicians who have the power and influence. It is the politicians who interfere in the work of technocrats and encourage shortcuts that benefit a few pockets.

It is due to such crookedness that mining investors send tonnes of precious stones abroad on the pretext that they are mere samples.

A mining deal of the magnitude of Kayelekera cannot be signed without the knowledge of a president.

Therefore, while we encourage foreign direct investors to come to Malawi, we urge the authorities to advance the interests of many Malawians who languishing in poverty.

The issue is ensuring that the process of reaching such mining agreements is inclusive, exhaustive and transparent for the betterment of the country.

Indeed, Mutharika has a critical oversight role of ensuring that his government assigns officials who are transparent and ethical enough when negotiating mining deals.

Again, we would like to believe that what Mutharika said yesterday was not mere political rhetoric that will not be followed by action.

Indeed, the country cannot afford to have more mining deals such as that of Kayelekera.

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