Fed up with unfulfilled election campaign promises, people of Nthalire in Chitipa South have embarked on a road construction from the area through Kayelekera Uranium Mine to connect with the Karonga-Chitipa Road.
They are constructing the earth road with hoes and other implements to save lives of expectant women who die in transit to Chitipa District Hospital, located 90 kilometres (km) away. The people also said the road will help them transport agricultural produce.
Their reaction comes on the back of promises the ousted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led administration made to construct the road from Rumphi through Nyika National Park to Nthalire and Chitipa.
Progress on the road construction project, which former president Peter Mutharika launched in July 2018 at Bolero in Rumphi, can only be seen around Chikwawa, which lies between Bolera Rural Growth Centre and Rumphi Boma.
The Tonse Alliance administration led by President Lazarus Chakwera, ushered into power through the court-sanctioned June 23 Fresh Presidential Election, promised to continue the project by starting with the first 20 km. However, there is nothing on the ground to show for the same, fading away peoples hopes of a better road network.
These developments have prompted people of Nthalire, including their sons and daughters living and working in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and other areas, to organise themselves by mobilising resources.
Blantyre-based Mclean Simwaka, leader of the project and chief executive officer of Automotive Products Limited, said in an interview yesterday that the people were tired of unfulfilled promises from politicians.
He said: “We have a hospital in Nthalire, but sometimes women develop complications during delivery and they have to be taken to Chitipa Boma. It takes six hours on a very bumpy road and many die in transit.
“Promises have been made, but to no avail. We are doing this on our own. We are tired of the promises. All we want is just action, that’s all. So far, we have already spent K5 million on labour costs and hope to spend K1 million more for culverts.”
Simwaka said the money was solicited locally and that they hired a grader for the roadworks from Chitipa Boma to Nthalire, but it developed a fault; hence, people are using hoes and picks to work on the road.
He said: “It is our hope that the current government will not make lies like the previous one. We have been told lies long enough and we are looking for some change.”
Mahowe Ward councillor Towera Munyenyembe said the people were only trying to have a better road network.
She said: “If you start off from Nthalire via Wenya to Chitipa, you pay K4 000, but that road is a death trap. The alternative is the Kayelekera one and it costs K12 000 to get to Kayelekera junction, and another K3 000 to Chitipa Boma. The mode of transport we are talking about is motorcycle, not lorries.”
Government constructed a road from Kapoka to Zambwe, but it will not proceed to Nthalire.
In September, the Wenya Development Organisation (Wedo) in Chitipa expressed concern over the lack of resources in the 2020/21 budget for construction of a road extension from Zambwe to Nthalire which remains in bad shape.
Roads Authority spokesperson Portia Kajanga said the Ministry of Transport and Public Works was better placed to speak on issues surrounding the road to Nthalire.
However, the ministry’s spokesperson Andrew Mthiko did not pick up his phone on several attempts while the line minister Mohammed Sidik Mia could not be reached for comment.
In the 2020/21 National Budget Statement, Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu said government would complete two road projects in the Northern Region.
He mentioned the Njakwa-Livingstonia Road which involves upgrading 75km of earth road to bitumen standard and stood at 65 percent completion. He also mentioned the Rumphi-Hewe Turn-off Road covering 20km from Chikwawa to Nyika National Park as the other.