JUNE 2 2013
omedian Bon Kalindo,known as Winiko, grewup in Njeza Village notfar from Mulanje
at thefoot of the Mulanje Massif.He has fond memories of his trek years back to theChambe Basin, a four-hourclimb up Africa’s third largestmountain. It was idyllic.“There were thick pineplantations you could barelysee the sun. Butterflies andrare birds hovered around.Cool springs were everywhere.Even the weather down themountain was as pleasant asup there,” recalls the actor.Kalindo says many peoplein the district benefited fromthe mountain as sawyers,lumberjacks, forestry workersand farmers. All that, he says, endedwhen in 2007 the MalawiGovernment entered intoan agreement with theNorwegian Government whichfunded the Mulanje MountainConservation Trust (MMCT)to preserve the MulanjeMountain ecosystem. That entailed eradicationof over 800 hectares of pineplantations for the Mulanjecedar which refuses to grow atthe basin, leaving the expansebare to expose communitiesat the foot of the mountain tofloods.“The past two yearshave seen heavy floods.We have experienced ashcontamination where bushfireashes from the burning of pine plantations pollute riversources. Our fear is one day,
Mulanje citizens cry for mountain
we will have flush floods,”said Kalindo, who is publicistfor ‘Concerned Citizens’ wholast year obtained a HighCourt injunction restrainingMMCT from operating on themountain. The High Court, however,on May 3 lifted the injunction,which also barred minersSpring Stone from exploringfor rare earths elements(REEs) on the mountain.Kalindo says they willcontinue fighting against themining and MMCT works.Mulanje Pasani DPPparliamentarian Peter Nowasaid the constituency isexperiencing hard times.Nowa said the threat of heavy floods is great since thebasin, which held most of thewater up the mountain, liesbare. According to him, over 300homes were swept in floodslast year.“We are questioning theminers since although theirprojects on the mountainmust be changed.“We cannot allow ourchildren to drink contaminatedash water. We cannot allowhectares of forest cover to berepudiated and expose peopleto floods. Mulanje chiefs havesent us to say no to all this.“We are not saying no tomining, which is a uniquecomponent of our economy,but it must be sustainable,”said Mpinganjira. The strongest opposition tothe mining and conservationappears to come from thelocal chiefs, including seniorchiefs Mabuka and Mkanda, Traditional AuthorityChikumbu and other localchiefs such as VillageHeadwoman Nankhonyo.“There were many peopleearning a living as sawyerson the mountain. Manypeople in my village [at thefoot of the mountain] arefarmers and they used to goup the mountain to sell theirproduce. That is gone.“Others who are tour guidesare crying as the number of tourists hiking the mountain isdwindling since the beautifulscenes on the mountain havebeen depleted,” she said. The chiefs, political leadersand their subjects vow to fighton.“We will use whatevermeans to stop the miningand MMCT from operatingon the mountain. Mulanjemust reclaim its glory,” saidKalindo.Principal Secretary in theMinistry of Mining Dr LeonardKalindekafe could not respondto our qquestionnaire sentto him two weeks ago. Hisminister, John Bande, wasunavailable for comment.
which is more precious.Mulanje cedar does notgrow anywhere else in theworld but on a few areas of Mulanje Mountain. Due toclimate change, the ChambeBasin is not one of the areason the mountain where theindigenous tree can grow. The effects of theeradication are clear. Peoplewho earned a living from thelumbering trekked to otherparts where the forests arethicker: Chikangawa andDedza, for instance.Since 2011, Spring StoneLimited—a joint venturecompany between Japan Oil,Gas and Metals NationalCorporation and GoldCanyon Resources—hasbeen exploring the basin forrare earth elements (REEs).Locals feel theexploration has hit themhard, citing an an ashcontamination that pollutedMulanje Mountain watersources late last year. Theyalso feel exploration workshave left the basin evenMay 3 2013, the High Courtvacated the injunction, buturged the environmentalists,miners and locals to agreeon the way forward.Mulanje DistrictCommissioner Jack Ngulubehas since summoned thethree parties. Will they finda solution that will save theMulanje Mountain and bringback its glory?
The genesis of the battle over Mulanje
ExclusivEinquiry pagE 2
Fighting for Mulanje Mountain: Kalindo (R) and Nowa
bare, with the fear of flushfloods and landslides growingby the day.With a December 7 2012High Court injunctionstopping MMCT fromworking on the Chambe Basinand Spring Stone ceasingexploration works, the locals,coming together as ConcernedCitizens, smiled.Not for long though, as onlicence says they can onlyget 70 kilogrammes of earthfrom the mountain, yet,every Friday, they bring downhundreds of kilogrammes. That has led to heavy siltationof our main source of water:the Likhubula River,” saidNowa.PP co-opted executivecommittee member BrownMpinganjira has joined thefight, saying for the future of the people of the district, theenvironmental and mining
P h o t o g r a P h : a N d r E w m t U P a N y a m a