Malawi Government has defended Mota Engil, one of the companies subcontracted by Vale Logistics to construct a railway passing Mwanza/Neno, Nkaya to Mozambique, for buying Nissan Navara Platinums for at least nine traditional authorities (T/As) in the districts where the railway line is passing.
The vehicles raised eyebrows at a time some villages under the jurisdiction of the nine T/As complained of Vale’s failure to pay compensation and fulfill their promises for loss of land due to the railway line project.
The price for each vehicle is K27 million.
But Minister of Transport Francis Kasaila has down played any sinister move in the purchase of the vehicles for the chiefs, saying it was done in good faith.
Kasaila said his ministry held several meetings with the two companies on the matter where it was disclosed that the vehicles were given to the chiefs to ease their mobility when conducting sensitisation meetings in areas the railway line is passing.
According to Kasaila, representatives of the two companies categorically denied that they wanted to silence chiefs over compensations the companies had promised people in the areas.
The minister, however, said some compensation claims being raised now were sorted out way back and that people were paid handsomely.
“This project started with the previous PP [People’s Party] government and this government had already found that all compensations were made. I hear they [people] were handsomely compensated. Some of the people who are reclaiming the land abused the money; hence, they want to be compensated again,” said Kasaila
He, however, said his ministry has instructed the two companies to develop a mechanism to increase sensitisation in the areas.
In a separate interview, Minister of Local Government Trasizio Gowelo, said he was not aware that chiefs received vehicles from the company.
“I am hearing it from you. As the line ministry responsible for all traditional chiefs in the country, I am not aware of any company giving out vehicles. We have no such records at our ministry,” said Gowelo.
He said if the chiefs indeed received vehicles, then it was done without knowledge of any official from his ministry.
Traditional Authority Kanduku of Mwanza confirmed benefitting from the Mota Engil gesture, adding that the vehicle was not bought to silence him.
“I am currently driving the vehicle that I was given my Mota Engil. We are about nine traditional authorities that have benefited from Mota Engil gesture,” said Kanduku.
He explained that the chiefs who have benefited asked the company to consider buying the vehicles for them because they had mobility challenges whenever called to resolve issues pertaining to the project.
Kanduku, however, acknowledged that they are outstanding issues with contractors, especially on the promise they made before commencement of the project
“The problem here in Mwanza, Neno and some areas is that when the project was starting, there were only few individuals from the ministries of Lands and Transport engaging communities and when they started facing problems, they wanted chiefs to come in,” he said.
According to Kanduku, Vale is yet to fulfill pledges of school blocks, health centres, among others.
But a Chikwawa resident Maziko Kadyanji hailed Mota Engil for the gifts.
“We thank Mota Engil for the timely donation. This donation has already made a difference in our community. We don’t travel long distances on foot when pregnant women are due for labour,” said Kadyanji.
Letinala Nansani from Thambani Village in Mwanza expressed satisfaction that the vehicles were well utilised as local traditional authorities were direct custodians.
The vehicle-donation was part of the Mota Engil Africa’s corporate social responsibility. The company recently announced a further $350 000 (about K140 million) package towards complementing efforts in education, health and environmental conservation, among others.
Mota Engil Africa chief executive officer Gilberto Rodrigues said the company believes in empowering communities where they work.
“Mota Engil Africa provided the vehicles to the communities to make a difference in their lives. During several interactions, we could hear issues of transport coming up again and again. We thought of donating bicycle ambulances but at a second thought, we said motor vehicles were ideal because they can be used in all weather conditions,” said Rodrigues.
On October 12 this year, residents of Kanono Village in Traditional Authority Saimoni and Chigomo Village in Traditional Authority Mlauli blocked a railway line construction to force Vale Logistics to fulfill promises to construct bridges.