CDEDI along side Lilongwe Small Scale Business Operators (LSCBO) addressing the press

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s civil rights group Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) along side Lilongwe Small Scale Business Operators (LSCBO) have given Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera’s Tonse administration 14 days to address influx of illegal immigrants vending.

The two grouping have therefore threatened to mobilize Malawians for national wide demonstration if the matter presented will not be addressed.

The groupings have faulted Homeland minister Richard Chimwendo Banda for contravening Lilongwe city council resolutions that meant to flash out illegal foreigners vending in the city.

Addressing the the news conference in the capital Lilongwe, the two grouping expressed worrisome on how Chimwendo is addressing the matter hence Chakwera given 14 days to act on the matter.

“There is an influx of foreign nationals in Lilongwe who came into the country as asylum seekers but have bolted from their refugee camps and are doing all
sorts of businesses in the city. Some foreign nationals applied for business licenses as investors but have ended up doing small scale businesses in the city and in some rural areas.

“The decision by the Homeland Security Minister Hon. Richard Chimwendo Banda who they claim has overruled a decision for all the foreign nationals that are operating businesses illegally in the city of Lilongwe, as well as in the rural areas, to wind up their trade and relocate to their proper places, in compliance with the laws of Malawi which demand that all the foreigners be in possession of residence permits and business licenses,”reads part of the statement shared to the press.

Below is the full statement:


WE NEED IMMEDIATE SOLUTIONS ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS,
FERTILIZER WOES, AND THE LOOMING HUNGER IN MALAWI

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has
been called to duty once again after noting some very disturbing developments
taking place in the country, which are hitting hard the poor and the
marginalized citizens, to a larger extent threatening their survival as human
beings.

Apart from monitoring the developments on the ground, CDEDI has also been
receiving a lot of Save Our Souls (SOS) messages from Malawians of all walks
of life from across the country, calling for our intervention.

CDEDI is in possession of letter from the Lilongwe Small Scale Business
Operators (LSCBO), appealing to CDEDI to intervene on the decision by the
Homeland Security Minister Hon. Richard Chimwendo Banda who they claim
has overruled a decision for all the foreign nationals that are operating
businesses illegally in the city of Lilongwe, as well as in the rural areas, to wind
up their trade and relocate to their proper places, in compliance with the laws
of Malawi which demand that all the foreigners be in possession of residence
permits and business licenses.

According to a letter to the CDEDI from the LSCBO, dated November 20, 2020,
there is an influx of foreign nationals in Lilongwe who came into the country as
asylum seekers but have bolted from their refugee camps and are doing all
sorts of businesses in the city.

The letter further claims that some foreign nationals applied for business licenses as investors but have ended up doing small scall businesses in the city and in some rural areas.

According to the complainants, this is total deceit, and they are appealing to CDEDI to intervene on the matter.

CDEDI further understands that these concerned business people mobilized
themselves and engaged the authorities starting with Traditional/Block leaders
up to the Homeland Ministry headquarters via the city and district councils.


CDEDI has evidence of these meetings, one of which was an all-inclusive
stakeholders meeting which was held on 2nd June 2020 where a resolution was made to have all the illegal business operators who were contravening both the Immigration Act and the Investment and Export Promotion Act (2002) relocated to their proper places such as their countries of origin or the refugee camps within 90 days.

This decision is contained in a letter CDEDI has in its possession, dated 3rd
June 2020 under the heading “FOREIGNERS OPERATING SMALL SCALE
BUSINESSES IN LILONGWE,’’ signed by the Lilongwe City Chief Executive
Officer (CEO) Mr. John Chome and the Lilongwe District Commissioner Dr.
Lawford Palani; copied to the Commissioner for Refugees-Lilongwe; the
Regional Immigration Officer-Centre; Secretary for Trade- Ministry of Trade; the
Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service; Secretary for Local Government; the National Intelligence Service; and The Small Business Concerned Citizens themselves that were all available at the meeting held on 2nd June 2020.

This however, coincided with the court sanctioned June 23rd, 2020 Fresh
Presidential Elections (FPE) that subsequently saw the change in governments
from the immediate past ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to the
Tonse Alliance government. By extension, there was also a change of Ministers
from Hon. Nicholas Dausi to Hon. Richard Chimwendo Banda.

The concerned small scale business people at their first follow up meeting with
the Homeland Security Ministry, which also brought together the same
stakeholders, it was noted that Hon. Chimwendo-Banda pushed the blame on
the immigration and the police for failing to do their job, and further pledged to
do the job in 7 days, only to change tune later as he told the concerned citizens
that due to change in government policy, the earlier directive that was made on
3rd June was automatically overruled!

We at CDEDI, are very suspicious with the sudden change of tune on the part
of the Hon. Chimwendo Banda and we demand an immediate probe by the
Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) on this matter.

Secondly, we don’t think that the change in government meant an outright change, suspension, or amendment of the two acts.

Prior to this, the concerned business people wrote Traditional Authority (T/A)
Tsabango on 18th February 2020, raising concern that the foreign nationals
were denying the indigenous business people access to the already limited
economic opportunities that were available in their localities.

Secondly, the concerns also bordered on issues to do with security, since the identities of the foreign nationals were not clearly known, as some might have been involved in criminal acts or civil war in their countries of origin; or they might be using Malawi as a transit route for human trafficking and change of identities to other countries.

Thirdly, the letter unearthed some unfair trading practices that are applied by
the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA); the Malawi Police Service (MPS);
traditional leaders whom the letter alleges that these law enforcement agencies
give the foreign nationals preferential business treatment.

The letter further alleges that there is externalization of foreign currency by these foreign nationals who are reportedly shunning commercial banks and are in the process sending out money to their countries of origin using informal means.

It is important at this stage to point out that CDEDI fully appreciates and
supports the universality of human rights, including the rights of displaced
citizens, refugees and asylum seekers and other minority groups.

Having critically looked at the concerns brought forward by the business community in Lilongwe city, CDEDI undertook a fact-finding mission and established the following:

Some foreign nationals came into the country as investors, while others came as refugees and asylum seekers especially from China, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Nigeria, but they are mostly involved in small scale businesses that ordinarily are supposed to be for the preserve of the locals, for example selling shoes and groceries; baking flitters (Mandasi);

The role of the Immigration Department has been reduced to issuance of passports only since they have literally ignored their duty of flashing out illegal immigrants as per the laws of Malawi;

Security agencies seem to be favouring illegal immigrants as they offer
them protection;

The findings above have created a situation where the natives have had all their existing opportunities taken away and wherever they have tried they are exposed to very unfair trading practices.
Although Malawi adopted a liberalized economy, it is worth noting that the country has laws that were deliberately put in place to protect its citizens to fully enjoy their right to economic activities. According to the Investment and Export Promotion Act and the Immigration Act, all foreign investors and business operators in Malawi are required to obtain valid investment certificates; business licenses; business permits; and visas before establishing their businesses in Malawi. The laws also restrict the investors to the country’s four cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre and municipals of Kasungu
and Luchenza, as designated areas where they can ply their trade. In the case of refugees and asylum seekers, they are supposed to stay at the camp except in circumstances where they are seeking medical treatment.
It is against this background that CDEDI is challenging President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse alliance government to quickly intervene on the matter before the situation gets out of hand, in the spirit of compliance and honouring the administration’s campaign promise to strictly abide by the rule of law. We expect Dr. Chakwera to take to task his Homeland Security minister, Hon. Chimwendo-Banda, who has suspiciously overruled a directive that was dully signed by the Lilongwe City authorities to have all the foreign nationals conducting businesses illegally in the city to be relocated to their
proper places.

CDEDI expects Dr. Chakwera to take action within fourteen (14)
working days. Failure to take heed of this appeal will leave the CDEDI with no choice but to join the Small-Scale Business Operators in their planned national wide demonstrations, in their quest to seek justice even further

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