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Paladin in hospital construction controversy

Controversy continues to dog implementation of the Kayelekera Mine Development Agreement (DA) between government and Paladin Africa Limited over a construction of a health facility in Karonga, with locals claiming it was difficult to ascertain the DA delivery in the absence of information and community participation.

The duel involves the failure by the uranium mining company to construct a health facility blamed on a deadlock on differences in definition and interpretation of the health facility between ministry of health and Paladin as contained in the DA.

The recent feud has again brought to the fore doubts by local residents, who are supposed to benefit from the implementation of the DA, on whether the company has fulfilled its obligations in the DA.

Traditional leaders in Karonga have said they are in the dark on whether Paladin Africa Limited is indeed fulfilling its corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations because they were never part of the DA between the uranium mining company and government.

Paramount Chief Kyungu told media that in the absence of such knowledge and by the look of things in the district, it is clear that Paladin has to do more.

“It’s up to government to see to it that Paladin is doing exactly what they are supposed to do. As the situation stands at the moment, it’s not up to us.

“Blind as we are, because we were never involved in all this, we really cannot say what is happening with Kayelekera.

“As citizens of Karonga, it is really difficult to say if Paladin is fulfilling its part of the deal but there is nothing tangible,” Kyungu said.

He, however, said Paladin was now getting more engaged as compared to the past when they were aloof and secretive.

He said for the first time they saw the company helping the flood victims in Ngerenge with K5 million.

“We have seen Paladin coming out of its cocoon and I urge government to exert more pressure on Paladin so that it does more for the people of the district as well as the country as a whole,” the paramount Chief said.

But Greg Walker, Paladin’s General Manager responsible for International Affairs said the company has fulfilled what is in the agreement although the challenge is that it was being kept a secret from the public.

He said now that Government has asked Paladin to agree to make public the full terms and conditions of the Kayelekera Development Agreement as a company they replied to the Ministry of Mining on 18 March 2013, indicating that it had no objection.

“Since the original request for the Development Agreement to be kept confidential was made by Government,” said Walker.

He said Paladin believes that, once the general public has the opportunity to see for itself exactly what is in the DA, any confusion and controversy will be swept away.

“Unfortunately, with the DA having been confidential, various individuals have been able to make false claims and assertions about its contents. The Community has been unable to judge for itself the truth or otherwise of those claims. That will change when Government releases the document,” he said.

Part of the Kayelekera DA states that the Company will: “construct at Kayelekera a primary school, housing for four teachers, an office for teachers working at the primary and secondary schools and a clinic to a typical standard for such facilities in Malawi using local labour to the extend practical.”

Walker says all this has been done. He also claimed that government is demanding construction of a regional sub-hospital at Kayelekera to a tune of between K225 and 250 million, a demand which Paladin says is delaying construction of a health facility in the area due to their disagreement of the charge.

Government has, however, dismissed Walker’s assertion saying what they are demanding is not a regional sub hospital, but it is merely a typical health centre.

Ministry of Health Spokesperson Henry Chimbali said what they recommended to Paladin was to construct a standard health centre according to the ministry’s design as per what they describe as a typical health centre now in Malawi.

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