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Paladin Energy

Paladin Energy goes bust

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

"It has never been a worse time for uranium miners." ‒ Alexander Molyneux, CEO of Paladin Energy, October 2016.1

Paladin Energy Ltd appointed administrators on July 3 after Electricité de France (EDF) called in a US$277 million debt that Paladin was unable to pay.2 Paladin is a uranium mining company based in Perth, Western Australia. The company is 75% owner of the Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia, 85% owner of the Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi (in care and maintenance since 2014), and it owns sundry 'nonproducing assets' in Australia, Canada and Niger.

The administrators, from KPMG, will continue to operate Paladin on a business-as-usual basis until further notice. Paladin said its management and directors "remain committed" to working with the administrators to restructure and recapitalise the company.2

Paladin "was formerly a multi-billion-dollar company and was once the best-­performed stock in the world" according to The Australian newspaper.3 The company's share price went from one Australian cent in 2003 to A$10.80 in 2007, but has fallen more than 200-fold and traded at 4.7 cents before trading was suspended in early June 2017.4 Paladin had just US$21.8 million in cash at the end of March 2017.4 The company's losses totalled US$1.9 billion between 1994 and 2014.5

Later this year, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which already owns 25% of the Langer Heinrich mine, may purchase Paladin's 75% stake. The move comes as a result of CNNC seeking to exercise a debt-default option to acquire the 75% stake. Paladin wanted to challenge CNNC in court, but after consulting with debt holders agreed not to do so due to prohibitive cost.6 Paladin could gain US$500 million from the sale but will still be in debt. In addition to the US$277 million it owes EDF, Paladin owes bondholders US$372 million.3

Assuming the Langer Heinrich sale goes ahead, Paladin will have nothing other than 'nonproducing assets' and the Kayelekera mine – which also a nonproducing asset since it is in care and maintenance. So the administrators have very little to work with. Just keeping Kayelekera in care and maintenance costs about US$10 million per year.7

Paladin said in 2014 that its decision to place Kayelekera on care and maintenance "is the latest in a sequence of closures, production suspensions and deferrals of major planned greenfield and brownfield expansions in the uranium sector, including Paladin's decision in 2012 to suspend evaluation of a major Stage 4 expansion of the Langer Heinrich Mine in Namibia."8

Paladin said in 2015 that a price of about US$75 per pound would be required for Kayelekera to become economically viable9 ‒ but that price hasn't been seen since 2011 and it is more than three times the current spot price and more than double the long-term contract price.10 Paladin also said that the availability of grid power supply would be necessary to restart Kayelekera, to replace the existing diesel generators.9

Selling nonproducing assets

Late last year, Paladin was reduced to selling nonproducing assets for a song. Paladin sold a number of Australian uranium exploration projects to Uranium Africa for A$2.5 million, including Oobagooma in Western Australia and the Angela/Pamela and Bigrlyi projects in the Northern Territory.11 Paladin told shareholders that the assets were 'noncore' and it was unlikely the company would be in a position to conduct any meaningful work developing the projects over the next decade.11 The A$2.5 million did little to improve Paladin's financial situation, but the company is also spared from further spending on rates, rents and statutory commitments payable to keep the tenements in good standing.11

Last year, Paladin also sold its 257.5 million shares in uranium exploration company Deep Yellow for A$2.6 million, with shares priced at one Australian cent a share.11 Deep Yellow, like Paladin, is an Australian-based company whose main interests are in Africa. Deep Yellow is now headed by John Borshoff, who founded Paladin in 1993 and agreed to step down as managing director and chief executive in August 2015.

Some 'nonproducing assets' can't be sold, not even for a song. Paladin hoped to sell a 30% stake in the Manyingee uranium project in Western Australia to Avira Energy for A$10 million, but Avira did not raise the required capital by the 31 March 2017 deadline.12 Avira said in April 2017 that investors who had previously committed to support its capital increase had withdrawn as a consequence of a "challenging" environment for new uranium projects in Western Australia.12 Development of Manyingee (and all other non-approved deposits) is prohibited under the policy of the current Western Australian government.

Happier days

The Australian Financial Review reflected on happier days for Paladin: "John Borshoff was once one of Western Australia's wealthiest businessmen. The founder of Perth-based Paladin Energy developed an enviable portfolio of African uranium mines supposed to satiate booming global demand for yellowcake. When the company's Langer Heinrich mine began shipments in March 2007, as the spot price for uranium eclipsed $US100 per pound, Paladin was worth more than $4 billion."13

Borshoff, described as the grandfather of Australian uranium, made his debut on the Business Review Weekly's 'Rich 200' list in 2007 with estimated wealth of A$205 million.13 Reuters describes Paladin as the world's second largest independent pure-play uranium miner after Cameco and the seventh or eighth largest globally.1 When the company's two mines in Africa were operating, annual production capacity was about eight million pounds of uranium oxide ‒ about 5% of world demand.

Paladin gambled and lost

Paladin gambled and lost, relying heavily on debt financing to quickly develop the Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera mines in Africa.13 Another failed gamble was to sell primarily on the spot market, thus missing the opportunity to lock in long-term contracts when the price was relatively high13 ‒ the long-term contract price has halved since the Fukushima disaster.

Another failed gamble was Paladin's A$1.2 billion hostile takeover bid for Summit Resources in 2007.13 Paladin owns 82% of Summit, which is sitting on uneconomic uranium deposits in Queensland ‒ an Australian state which bans uranium mining. In 2015, Paladin booked a A$323.6 million write-down on its exploration assets in Queensland.14

A July 2013 article said that "to put things lightly, management is overpaid", and suggested that management's focus may be "on its own best interests rather than the interests of all shareholders".15

Dave Sweeney, nuclear free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, told Nuclear Monitor:

"Paladin's ambition and appetite has always exceeded its capacity and competence and now the gap between its inflated promises and its profound under-performance is absolute. This company has always been a uranium bull. It's former CEO John Borshoff promised unrealistic wealth for Africa while dismissing Fukushima as a 'sideshow'. When the market was buoyant they paraded their portfolio and were market darlings, now they are desperate, dateless and on administrative life-support.

"A real concern here is the impact on the environment and communities in which Paladin operate. The risk is that more corners will be cut in African operations in relation to rehabilitation, worker entitlements and environmental protection. Paladin's boom to bust case study is a further clear example of the lack of independent scrutiny of the uranium sector and also reflects poorly on the activities of Australian miners operating in nations with limited governance and regulatory capacity."


1. Geert De Clercq, 3 Oct 2016, 'Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound',

2. World Nuclear News, 3 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy enters administration',

3. Paul Garvey, 4 July 2017, 'French debt forces uranium miner Paladin into administration',

4. Nick Evans, 11 Aug 2015, 'Borshoff cedes control of debt-laden Paladin', West Australian.

5. Mike King, 19 Jan 2015, 'Paladin Energy Ltd revenues soar 79% but shares sink',

6. Greg Peel, 11 July 2017, 'Uranium Week: Taking Its Toll',

7. Rachel Etter-Phoya and Grain Malunga / OpenOil, Oct 2016, 'Kayelekera Model & Narrative Report',

8. Paladin Energy, 7 Feb 2014, 'Suspension of Production at Kayelekera Mine, Malawi',

9. Sarah-Jane Tasker, 8 Jan 2015, 'Paladin Energy alerts ASX to spill at Malawi uranium mine',


11. Esmarie Swanepoel, 15 Dec 2016, 'Paladin holds a fire sale',

12. World Nuclear News, 3 April 2017,

13. Tess Ingram, 7 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy: from market hero to administration',

14. Henry Lazenby, 14 May 2015, 'Paladin Energy narrows nine-month net loss',
15. Tommy Humphreys, 10 July 2013, 'Uranium outlook and Paladin Energy risk profile',

Uranium mining companies in Africa: The case of Paladin Energy in Malawi

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Anica Niepraschk

Poor work conditions with a high exposure to radiation, such as when workers are forced to continue working despite an insufficient supply of dust masks at the mine. The use of flammable chemicals in dangerous quantities resulting in a flash fire causing the deaths of two people and serious injuries to another. A workshop accident causing the death of another worker. Several road accidents resulting in two more fatalities and in a spill of highly radioactive yellowcake, concentrated uranium, near the mine. The failure of a tailings dam causing the release of radioactive tailings into the environment and the ‘controlled' release of tailings without public information on the residual contamination of the discharged water after treatment into the nearby Sere river which partly serves as drinking water source for local residents and runs into Lake Malawi, which provides a source of water and fish for millions of people.

These are just some of the reported incidents at the Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi. The mine is located in the north of the country, close to the Tanzanian border and started operation in 2009. It is the country's first and only uranium mine and is operated by Paladin Africa, a 100% subsidiary of Paladin Energy, which is based in Perth, Western Australia. Since February 2014, Kayelekera has been placed in care and maintenance due to continuing low uranium prices and the high production cost of the mine. According to Paladin, this would make operation of the mine uneconomical and cost the company millions to run each year.

Paladin is the first of a large number of Australian junior exploration and mining companies trying to tap into Africa's huge uranium deposits. They are attracted not only by the large deposits but also by less sophisticated environmental and health regulations and legislative frameworks. Many African countries do not have appropriate mining and radiation legislation in place to minimise the risks of mining and uranium mining in particular, which is still relatively new to the continent and has unique radiological risks. Furthermore, tax and royalties' regulations as well as other legislation to ensure the host country benefits economically from the mining operations are often inadequate.

Junior companies which do not have the operational experience, financial and other capacity to comply with stricter regulations in the experienced uranium mining environments of Europe, North America and Australia increasingly try to use these circumstances to pave their way into the uranium market by venturing into Africa. This is well illustrated by Paladin's CEO and Executive Director John Borshoff, who in 2006 stated that: "The Australians and the Canadians have become over-sophisticated in their environmental and social concerns over uranium mining, the future is in Africa."

This attitude puts at risk the people and environment in the targeted African countries.

Holding Paladin accountable

In the case of Kayelekera, civil society has been enormously concerned over the impacts of the mine and tries to hold Paladin accountable. Access to the site and key monitoring documents like environmental reports and radiation doses for workers and the public were and are requested, but with the exemption of one site visit have continuously been denied or subject to avoidance strategies. Paladin, however, claims to comply with international reporting, health and safety as well as environmental standards. While Paladin recently talked about stewardship and sustainability at the Australian Uranium Conference1 in Perth, it is worth having a look at the actual reality of its operations.

In a 2012 monitoring trip, followed up by a recent visit to Kayelekera, CRIIRAD2, a French NGO specialising in independent radiation monitoring, found uranium levels in the Sere river downstream from the mine of 0.042 mg/l, exceeding the WHO guideline of 0.030mg/l and 194 times higher than upstream from the mine. There is no information publicly available on how radiation levels are monitored on and off site and on the measured individual exposure levels of workers. This is against both the official company policy and international labour laws. There is no indication as to what treatment or compensation is available to workers who suffer from long-term health impacts.

The tailings dam is located on a site with negative geological and hydrogeological characteristics such as seismic activity, fault lines, high rainfall and strong erosion and is not subject to proper confinement. Furthermore there is no clear plan available as to how run-off water will be handled after mine closure. These are just a few issues CRIIRAD raised on the significant impacts of Kayelekera on the health and safety of workers and on the environment.

Moreover, Paladin's operations fail to contribute to Malawi's economic development. Malawi is ranked the world's poorest country. Yet, as a recent report3 by ActionAid states, the country loses out on US$43 million revenue from the Kayelekera operation due to a number of royalties and tax reductions stipulated in the mining agreement between Paladin Africa and the government of Malawi. According to the report, Paladin is also avoiding outstanding payments through transfer pricing. This refers to the company making tax-free payments to the Netherlands, where it has a holding company without staff, and thereby running Kayelekera on thin capitalisation. Paladin Africa thereby gains excessive interest reductions, further stripping Malawi of any economic benefit derived from the mining operations.

Operations like this damage not only the lives and livelihood of people in African countries but also the reputation of Australian mining companies abroad. The poor health and safety track record of Australian companies operating in Africa, including numerous fatalities4, is heavily criticised in a new report by an International Consortium of Investigatory Journalists.5 The report notes that some of the practices used in Africa would be impermissible and unthinkable in Australia.

Australian Senate Inquiry

In 2011, the results of a Senate Inquiry into Australia's relationship with African countries were published.6 Mining companies' operations in Africa were highlighted as having a good record in establishing policies on the protection of human rights and the environment but their implementation is often limited. So are corporate and social accountability. It was also found that this is a particular challenge with junior companies.

The Senate Inquiry recommended that the Australian government should undertake steps for Australia to become an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative7 (EITI) compliant country and to continue to promote EITI principles and other corporate social responsibility instruments. EITI is a coalition of governments, companies and civil society groups, investors and international organisations, which has developed a global standard that promotes revenue transparency on a country level. It aims to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability over payments and revenues in the extractives sector.

Although there is a broad support for developing countries joining EITI, few industrialised countries have. In 2001, under a Labor Party government, Australia stated that it would implement an EITI pilot, which was completed last year. A multi-stakeholder group analysed the report and found that moving to implementation of EITI candidature would be appropriate. This result is currently being considered by the conservative Liberal/National government.

Becoming EITI compliant would set a good example for other countries to follow as well as build trust in Australia's exploration and mining operations overseas. A further recommendation by the Senate Inquiry was to establish and fund a special unit tasked with developing a regulatory framework model for the mining and resources sector, which African countries could consider adopting according to their requirements. This recommendation has so far not been pursued.

It is clear that essential conditions for local benefits from mining operations, like the experience and frameworks to negotiate equitable agreements, regulation, legislation and the mechanisms for local oversight and regulatory enforcement have to be developed and implemented in the respective host countries. This includes, for example, modernising mining and revenue laws, the administration of land title and mining registries and the creation of publicly available databases.

There is an ongoing need for civil society engagement with and oversight of Australian mining companies operating overseas. Time and time again problems are identified not by governments or regulators, but by workers and civil society. That will not change even if Australia does become EITI compliant, but EITI compliance would help facilitate such engagement and thereby pave the way to improved accountability and transparency. Achieving a responsible and accountable mining culture, however, takes much more than that and is an ongoing challenge − both at home and abroad.

Anica Niepraschk is a political scientist specialised in governance issues and civil society participation. She has a working background in Zambia, the DR Congo and Botswana and currently follows governance issues in the nuclear sector.









Uranium price slumps, Paladin Energy in trouble

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

The spot uranium price fell to US$34.50 / lb U3O8 in late July, a price not seen since December 2005 during the upswing of a spectacular price bubble which peaked in June 2007 at US$138 / lb. The 12% price slump in July was the biggest monthly loss since March 2011. Since September 2, the spot price has been still lower, at US$34.00. Those prices are just over half the spot price of US$66.50 / lb on 11 March 2011, the first day of the triple-disaster in north-east Japan.[1]

The long-term contract price has been reasonably stable in recent months at US$57 / lb. At that price, the value of annual global uranium requirements for power reactors is around US$10 billion.

FNArena wrote on September 17: "The issue of low uranium prices discouraging new supply is not just one of the spot price itself but one of the marginal cost of new supply. Producers suggested to Ux that the average marginal cost of production of operating mines is around where the spot price is now, but the marginal cost of developing a new mine is more like US$65-70/lb. From the nuclear energy prospective, respondents rated the most significant demand-side influences as, in descending order of influence, Japanese reactor restarts, Chinese reactor build, the premature shutdown of older US reactors and the emergence of newcomer countries to nuclear energy (about equal), and the upcoming French nuclear licence renewals."[19]

Raymond James analyst David Sadowski expects an average spot price of $40 per pound this year, $52 in 2014, and $70 in both 2015 and 2016.[2] Michael Angwin from the Australian Uranium Association expects low prices until about 2017/18, and a article states that "the road to recovery for this battered commodity will be a long haul".[3,4] Rob Atkinson, outgoing CEO of Energy Resources of Australia, says the uranium spot price is woeful, making it extremely difficult to make the case for developing a new mine, and the market will remain difficult for at least another two years.[21]

The industry hopes that reactor restarts in Japan will improve the situation − but restarts will be slow and in many cases strongly contested. The industry hopes that new build in China will improve the situation − but pre-Fukushima nuclear growth projections have been sharply reduced and China now plans to approve a "small number" of new reactors projects each year.[5]

The industry hopes that the end of the US-Russian 'Megatons to Megawatts' program − downblending highly enriched uranium from weapons programs for use in power reactors − will improve the situation. But mine production has met an increasing proportion of demand in recent years − 78% in 2009 and 2010, 85% in 2011 and 86% in 2012 (the shortfall was around 10,000 tonnes of uranium in 2011 and 2012).[6] This suggests that the end of the Megatons to Megawatts program will have a moderate impact. There is scope for weapons material to continue to supply the civil market regardless of future bilateral US-Russian agreements.[7] Ux Consulting noted last year that reduction in demand stemming from the Fukushima accident "essentially negates much of the reduction in supply resulting from the end of the US-Russia HEU deal".[8] Utilities have built up uranium stockpiles in recent years as a result of low uranium prices (the World Nuclear Association estimated commercial inventories totalling 145,000 tonnes of uranium in 2010 − enough to supply global demand for two years).[9]

Jeb Handwerger, described by Uranium Investing News as a "uranium bull and stock guru", says that "Smart money recognizes the bottom."[10] But smart money is heading for the door. At the Paydirt Uranium Conference in February 2012 in Australia, it was clear many companies were looking elsewhere, prompting an industry veteran to quip that copper and gold had never before enjoyed so much airtime at a uranium conference.[11] A year later, attendance was so poor that the conference was reduced from two days to one day and shifted from the Hilton Hotel to a less opulent venue.

Uranium gloom and doom is also being felt in the enrichment sector. Urenco posted a 45% drop in revenue for the first half of 2013 and a 31% fall in earnings (compared to the first half of 2012). Revenue fell to 384 million euros and earnings dropped to 319 million euros. Urenco said it expects a "substantial rebalance" during the second half of the year due to continued capacity expansion in its US facility and the construction of a new unit in the UK. The UK government owns one third of Urenco, as does the Dutch government, with the final third held by German utilities E.On and RWE. All the owners have been looking to sell their stakes but have so far failed to secure a deal.[20]

Paladin Energy
Australian-based Paladin Energy operates two uranium mines in Africa − Langer Heinrich in Namibia and Kayelekera in Malawi. CEO John Borshoff told a mining conference in Western Australia in July that the uranium industry faces a number of "major problems" such as the lack of greenfields development, dwindling investment capital and the sickly uranium price.[12]

Borshoff said: "[T]he uranium industry is definitely in crisis, I believe, and is showing all the symptoms of a mid-term paralysis if this situation does not demonstrably change. How can there not be a problem when you have an effective moratorium with nearly all major companies making no commitment to greenfields development until the price gets about US$70 and it is believed it can stay above that level. And how can there not be a problem when you have a strong chance that some of the more expensive, smaller operations will be mothballed − putting more pressure on current production. ... Only at this price level [US$70/ lb] − and above − can sufficient capital for new products be raised and returns on investment be justified to finally give some risk reward to the shareholder. And this appears to be a long way away."

Borshoff said much of the blame lies with the uranium industry's customers, who he said had focused on the expediency of current cheap prices rather than the supply−demand gap forecast to open in coming years.

Shares in Paladin plummeted on August 5 after the company announced a heavily discounted A$88 million raising through the issuing of 125.6 million shares.[13] The company's cash position dropped to A$78.1 million at June 30, down from A$112.9 million at the end of the previous quarter.[14]

The news followed a decision by the company to scrap negotiations for the sale of its interest in Langer Heinrich. Langer Heinrich produced 5.3 million pounds out of the company's total output of 8.26 million pounds of U3O8 in the year to June 30.[13] Borshoff said: "The current depressed uranium price has meant that it is unlikely that a price that appropriately reflects the strategic value of the asset will be achieved and accordingly proceeding at this time would be detrimental to long-term shareholder value."[15]

Andrew Shearer, an analyst at PhillipCapital Ltd., said: "The decision to terminate the asset sale is contrary to the company's guidance that the process was continuing well and heading toward a conclusion."[14]

Stockbroker RFC Ambrian said: "From a technical perspective, Paladin can be satisfied that it has achieved record sales but the fact remains that it has not had a profitable annual result since commencing operations. Our modelling forecasts continued negative cash flow and the company running out of cash in early 2014 and consequently [being] unable to service its substantial debt position. This was expected to be covered through the strategic sale of a minority interest in Langer Heinrich for cash."[16]

The share offering bought the company some breathing space if nothing else. Paladin had about US$670 million of debt at the end of March 2013 according to data compiled by Bloomberg.[14]

On August 30, Paladin Energy had more bad news, reporting a net loss of US$420.9 million for the 2013 financial year, more than double the previous year's loss of US$172.8 million and not far short of the company's record net loss of US$480.2 million in financial year 2009.[17,18] Borshoff launched into another spray about the low uranium price, labelling it ''diabolical'', ''extremely depressed'' and ''of great concern''.

Borshoff would not rule out closing one of Paladin's two mines (most likely the Kayelekera mine in Malawi) as part of the company's efforts to cut costs. Analyst Andrew Shearer said the Kayelekera mine was unlikely to be profitable at present prices, but the decision was complex: ''They would have to weigh up the cost associated with putting it on care and maintenance and whether they have any contractual agreements in terms of uranium sales.''

As Paladin does not make enough profit at current uranium prices to meet its debt repayments, the company will once again try to sell down its stake in its Namibian mine. Extra funding is needed to repay US$300 million in convertible notes that mature in 2015.[18]

As of late August, Paladin's share price was A$0.56, barely one-tenth the figure of A$5 the day before the Fukushima disaster.

According to Fairfax journalist Peter Ker, Paladin's "parlous state has some whispering about executive renewal."[17]


(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)


Paladin threatens pensioner
Last December, Paladin Energy threatened 75-year old Australian pensioner Noel Wauchope with legal action for posting on her website an article critical about Paladin's uranium operations in Karonga, Malawi. The threat backfired when it was publicised in the widely-read Fairfax press.

Fairfax business columnist Michael West wrote: "The price of Noel Wauchope's concern for the people Karonga was a long and intimidating letter of demand from Ashurst on behalf of the uranium company Paladin Energy and its general manager of international affairs, Greg Walker. If she did not comply with these demands, warned Ashurst, she would face court action. ...

Among other things, the Ashurst letter accused the anti-nuclear campaigner of imputing that Mr Walker was 'insensitive'.

In any case, these kinds of threats to muzzle free speech are on the rise. At a time when the mainstream media is under pressure from falling revenues, lawyers are threatening and shutting down websites around the country at an alarming clip. ...

As to the threats against the mild-mannered antinuclear campaigner from Caulfield, Ashurst laid down a long list of supposedly defamatory imputations then noted, "The above details of falsity are not comprehensive and it should be assumed that any imputation not addressed is also false, unless otherwise stated".

This is just buffoonery. Yet the overall message of such threats is always crystal clear: back off, do what we tell you or you could lose your house. It looks like bullying, pure and simple."

Uranium miner Paladin accused of bribery - leading to activist's death in Malawi

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Australian uranium mining company Paladin has been discredited yet again, and with shocking results. Student and activist Robert Chasowa was killed after having published a document in which he accused Paladin of bribing the President of Malawi. The President, facing serious protests by civilians and NGOs, is repressing civilians with increasing violence and threats. Paladin's connections to the President remain unclarified.

Paladin Africa's uranium mine in Kayelekera, Northern Malawi, continues to give rise to alarming calls from NGOs. Human rights activists in Malawi have complained about intransparency and secrecy policies from the beginning of the mine's operations, and reported about being questioned and intimidated by police forces while monitoring radioactive transports. Paladin received frequent negative media attention as labourers died in accidents at the mine and health and safety procedures proved below standard.

International NGOs have accused Paladin of completely disregarding international industry practices concerning disclosure and transparency of practices and policies, including payments to national governments. Also, activists claim that international safety and environmental standards are neglected by the company. Company culture has been called 'neocolonialist' and 'incredibly arrogant' towards those who are affected by mining operations.

Meanwhile, authoritarian President Bingu wa Mathurika, who was democratically elected a few years ago but whose rule has recently developed some dangerous characteristics of a dictatorship, is confronted with nation-wide protests. Only 6% of people in Malawi have access to electricity, poverty remains high, and there have been serious fuel and currency shortages for a long period. The fact that Mathurika purchased a US$ 20 million presidential airplane and has spent millions of public dollars on private occasions such as his 2010 wedding, have not done his public image much good.

July 2011 protests ended up in nineteen protesters shot dead by the police. The President dismissed his entire Cabinet after the July demonstrations and immediately formed a new Cabinet, which included his brother and his wife. Since then, activists have been accused, arrested, and beaten up. The violence and intimidation even included several cases of arson.

The student who was found dead at the University of Malawi was the Vice-President of the organisation Youth for Democracy and Freedom (YDF), who published a weekly political update. The update that caused policemen to enter university, arrest and question the YDF's President Black Moses and probably to kill Robert Chasowa a few days later, was addressed at President Mathurika and questioned his policies and money flows, warning him that he will one day be prosecuted for  multiple human rights abuses. In the update, the YDF asks Mathurika 'Mr President – why should Paladin Africa, a company which is mining uranium at Kayerekera be banking US$100,000 every month to your personal account in Australia-when Malawi is experiencing a cute shortage of forex?'

A few days after, Robert Chasowa was found dead next to a tall university building, his body intact but with a wound on his head. The police officially stated that Chasowa had committed suicide, claiming that he even left a suicide note, implying that he had gotten afraid of the political situation.

Government denies responsibility for Chasowa's death. Paladin denies paying money to an Australian private bank account of Mathurika.

Sources: Nyasa Times, Malawi Voice, Face of Malawi, Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, Malawi Today
Contact: WISE Amsterdam