By: Happy Arnold Soko
As the trend continues among Malawian politicians utilizing their Ministerial positions for personal gains, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, George Chaponda has come under fire for interfering with the oil exploration licensing issues which fall under the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.
According to a report by Malawi’s Mining and Trade Review Issue Number 36, a grouping of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under the banner of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) has lashed out on the Foreign Minister for a statement released earlier this month that Peter Mutharika has lifted a ban on oil exploration effected in November 2014.
The statement from CSOs has blasted Chaponda for interfering in the duties of a different Ministry. It further suspects devious games to have taken place for the Minister to come up with the decision different to his duties.
“Government of Malawi suspended all licensing and agreements with expatriate firms on oil prospecting saying it wanted to review them in order to ensure that the licences and the agreements that were signed are for the benefit of the people of Malawi and were done in accordance with all the relevant laws of the country. It is unclear why this announcement did not come from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining itself”, reads the statement from the CSOs.
However, though the Mutharika administration is courting new investors into the oil exploration subsector, licences for all the six blocks were already awarded to expatriate firms which include South Africa’s Sacoil Holdings for block 1, Hamra Oil for blocks 2 and 3, Rakgas MB45 for blocks 4 and 5 and Pacific Oil Limited for block 6.
The government under the previous Joyce Banda led administration signed petroleum sharing agreements for blocks 4 and 5 with Rakgas MB45 and for block 6 with Pacific Oil Limited.
But in his reaction, Chaponda defended himself citing that he is the one who hosted and facilitated talks with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Georgia David Jalagania, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Ycrzhan Ashikbayev and Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Sala Heddine Mezouar on the sidelines of the 26th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they promised to provide expertise and share knowledge on oil subsector activities.