Sixty out of every 100 people in Blantyre City are living in slums, which occupy 30 percent of the city’s land, which makes the country’s commercial city one big slum.
Blantyre City Council (BCC) mayor Noel Chalamanda said this yesterday when members of Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network, who are being hosted in the country by Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor and Centre for Community Organisation and Development (Ccode), had an audience with him and other city council officials to share experiences from their countries and map the way forward for Malawi slum dwellers.
Said Chalamanda: “We have a lot of people living on a small piece of land because when we look at the figures, it means 40 percent of the city’s population is occupying 70 percent of 228 square kilometres of available land.
“There are a number of reasons that have caused this influx, some of them include [the fact] that there is little seriousness with issues of town planning, people just build their houses anyhow without following city orders.
“Another factor is that migration levels are very high in Blantyre as we have people coming from nearby districts seeking greener pastures and opportunities here.”
However, the mayor said all cities in the world have slums, a fact that cannot be ignored as no matter what, the slums will always be there and somehow the city cannot do without them as they provide housing to the urban poor who cannot afford to live in formal settlements.
He said because of such cases, the city as well as its partners has got a huge task to manage the slums to make sure that “our sisters and brothers who are not as advantaged as us live a better life,” because usually, the slums are a bleeding zone for poor sanitation.
Speaking at the same meeting, BCC town planning and estate services director Costly Chanza said the council has already taken a step towards slum upgrading to bring sanity in some communities around Blantyre.
He said the council has done its part of offering about 1 500 plots, some in Area 11 in Machinjiri and others in Mzedi to Ccode and Federation so that they come up with the necessary arrangements to ensure the marginalised poor living in slums are assisted with formal settlement and the council will help with the necessary planning guidelines.
Said Chanza: “The target that is being looked at in order to address the problem of informal settlement is 10 000 plots. These are for the low income earners only, and the council will be giving the plots in phases. The major problem is that Blantyre City Council does not have the land, so we are talking with government to consider giving us some land so that we can address these challenges.”
Chanza said Ccode and Federation would empower dwellers of the planned land like they did in Angelo Goveya.
In an interview, Ccode executive director Sungani Chalemba said they always stress on issues of maintenance and constant repairing to make them withstand harsh weather conditions and time.
The meeting brought together representatives from various countries, including South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana and they all shared their experiences on how poor people can best be assisted to alleviate the problems of slums that the country’s major cities is facing. n