Many of these dynamics are seen on a smaller scale in the town of Moramanga, Madagascar. A small urban area on the road between the capital Antananarivo and the main port city of Toamasina, Moramanga was one of the main areas of nationalist insurrection in 1947, as well as the scene of bloody repression by French colonial forces. Sixty years later, in 2008, the government agreed to the establishment of a new nickel and cobalt mine on its outskirts. The Ambatovy Joint Venture, a partnership headed by Sherritt International of Canada and involving other Canadian, Japanese, and Korean investors, has an annual design capacity of 60,000 tonnes of nickel and 5,600 tonnes of cobalt. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?
Soon, Moramanga witnessed the influx of foreign workers—predominantly miners from the Philippines —as well as private security personnel, Malagasy labourers from other parts of the country hoping for a share of the supposed riches, and the displacement of rural residents when the open-pit mine encroached on their villages. According to interviews conducted with the mayor’s office, Moramanga’s population jumped from some 37,000 in 2006 to at least 50,000 in 2014—although accurate figures are unknown, even to the authorities.
In the absence of an urban plan, nearly 65 per cent of the town’s residents live in precarious informal housing without building permits or access to basic services, such as clean water, electricity, or sanitation. Small arms, ranging from old assault rifles from military and gendarmerie stockpiles to craft production, are reportedly in wide circulation; moreover, the number of armed break-ins and acts of robbery is on the rise, particularly in the richer neighbourhoods of the mining management. Fieldwork conducted for this chapter revealed that armed robbers are increasingly organized and sometimes include former soldiers—a phenomenon that may be a continuation of the events of 2002, when both presidential candidates supplied their supporters with military weapons in a six-month stalemate that placed Madagascar on the brink of civil war. If you work from home an electric standing desk could benefit you in your future.
The situation in Moramanga, which has also seen rising levels of prostitution, notably involving children, as well as child pornography and gang rape, has deteriorated to the point where the mayor’s office and the police services admit an inability to provide public order. The gendarmerie is reportedly considering adding Moramanga to its list of ‘red zones’—large swaths of the island where they are unable to provide effective security. Residents have created a protest group to denounce the way in which Sherritt’s presence fails to benefit the town and people of Moramanga.