Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) has contradicted Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda’s claim that government will construct 600 houses from the K600 million allocated for persons with albinism (PWA’s) in the 2019/20 Budget.
The minister told The Nation in an interview on Thursday that government will construct 600 houses for PWA’s from the K600 million budget allocation, translating into K1 million for each house.
But Apam national coordinator Overstone Kondowe says the agreement was that government would construct 193 houses for PWAs, one per constituency.
The plan to construct 600 houses for PWA’s, however, contradicts Kaunda’s statement last month that government plans to construct 13 000 houses for PWA’s nationwide this year from the 2019/20 Budget.
Asked to explain the change in figures, Kaunda in an interview said the 13 000 houses will be completed in five years.
Said the minister: “The K600 million is a starting point. In the event that money ends before the completion of the 600 houses, certainly government will top up. We are giving ourselves five years to complete the 13 000 houses.”
But if government were to construct 600 houses each year for five years, it would build only 3 000 houses, not 13 000 as the minister claims.
Asked further to clarify on this, Kaunda said there is another project in which government will construct five houses in each constituency for vulnerable groups from which PWAs will also benefit.
He said: “Then we have the normal programme [Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme [Dahsp] which is targeting people in rural areas and they [PWA’s] can also benefit if their VDC [village development committee] or ADC [area development committee] in their villages select them. If we put everything together, in a space of five years, 13 000 is not too much.”
He said government has introduced the programme as PWAs require special protection and stressed the need to construct strong houses for maximum security.
“You may recall that there was an albino in Nkhata Bay who was hacked right inside his house. So, with that in mind, we need to build houses that are strong,” explained Kaunda.
Meanwhile, Kondowe has said the initial agreement was that government would construct 193 houses for PWAs, one each per constituency.
He said: “From the minutes I have, as part of the committee that is looking into the housing for persons with albinism, the initial plan is to have one house per constituency, meaning that we will have 193 houses as a starting point. This is what we have sent to our members in the districts to assess one house per constituency.”
If government were to construct 193 houses from the K600 million allocation, it means one house would cost about K3.1 million.
A contractor we asked to shed light on the cost of a basic house, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in an interview yesterday K1 million is not enough to construct a basic, iron-sheet-roofed house.
“You will need iron sheets, cement and labour, among other things. Is the K1 million for a house or a toilet? I am surprised because a basic house without a toilet and a bathroom costs a minimum of K3 million,” said the source.
However, Kondowe commended government for allocating the funds for PWAs and called for transparency and accountability in the projects by including Apam members in implementing committees.
According to National Statistical Office (NSO) 2019 Population and Housing Census report, the country has 134 000 PWAs.
Said Kondowe: “It is our hope that these resources will support lives of persons with albinism in the country. As Apam, we want to be available at all tables where decisions will be made.
“We would want to have a permanent representation in the committee that will make sure that the money is being used for the intended purposes. We have had a history in Malawi where resources are allocated but at the end of the day, you find nothing happening.”
Commenting on the proposed 2019/20 National Budget that Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha presented in Parliament last Monday, Malawi Congress Party spokesperson on finance Sosten Gwengwe observed that the budget is giving mixed signals, saying resources in the financial plan have been allocated to developments which have hardly made any progress despite being allocated funding in the last budget.
He said: “As members of Parliament, we expected a bold and challenging statement. We want to know where the minister would be getting resources from.”
But Mwanamveka said the projects referred to are long-term, as such, they could not be implemented within one financial year.
Government has set aside K10 billion for Dahsp in the 2019/20 Budget, an increase from K7 billion. Dahsp was introduced in the 2015/16 fiscal year to cater for Malawians’ housing needs.
In the 2014 manifesto, President Peter Mutharika promised to help the poor to build 66 000 houses within five years under Dahsp. But as of December last year, his administration only erected 26 000 houses which represented 39 percent completion rate.