By Chancy Namadzunda:
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has called upon the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to summon stakeholders in the tea and macadamia industries in Thyolo, Mulanje and Nkhata Bay to critically investigate their contribution to the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP).
Addressing the media in Lilongwe, CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa said he strongly believes this exercise will clear fears that the Government of Malawi is in some undesirable agreements with owners of these estates like non-payment of tax and non-disclosure of proceeds.
“The million-dollar question is, who is benefitting from such agreements? The probe will also clear rumours that tea proceeds do not see their way back to Malawi after being sent to the estates’ beneficial owners in Britain.
“PAC’s timely intervention will address the question as to whether there is justification for providing land much-needed by Malawians to the tea and macadamia industries in Thyolo, Mulanje and Nkhata Bay, which are not contributing to the country’s GDP— save for ‘enslaving’ our people in the pretext of providing them employment.
“In fact, today, more and more people are losing jobs at the plantations as the estates are resorting to replacing manual labour with advanced technologies. Actually, some estates have completely abandoned tea production and are now in poultry production while others are diversifying into other non-traditional industries, in desperate attempts to cling onto the land,” said Namiwa
He added that there is also excessive use of chemicals that is posing a threat to the safety of the locals and, indeed, the ecosystem.
“For those that are still in the tea production, some have thrown all caution to the wind and no longer care about the welfare of their surrounding communities. They are not carrying out any corporate social responsibilities. They are even failing to maintain the roads in their own estates and in some cases water pipes to the estates merely pass through villages where people drink water from unprotected sources.
“It is against this background that CDEDI is asking PAC to intervene and ensure that all estates in the country are contributing to the larger good or else surrender the land.
“The secrecy in the tea industry is disturbing, especially when one considers that during every tobacco growing season Malawians get to know how much tobacco they produced, and how much the country earned from its sales. Such transparency and accountability is lacking in the tea, coffee, tung and macadamia produced in Thyolo, Mulanje, Nkhata Bay and other districts,” he said
He added; “needless to say that citizens in the said districts feel isolated, and being treated as less human beings since they do not have land which is one of the most fundamental natural resources available to man for social and economic development in the agro-based Malawi economy. These landless people, therefore, have been disenfranchised from their right to economic activities and, most importantly, for decades, they have been denied right to food, which is one of the basic human rights.
“Actually, the much-touted Malawi 2063 development agenda will be difficult to attain if the wrongs happening in the tea, coffee, tung and macadamia industries remain uncorrected. Now is time for PAC to do the needful.”