(Judge Mbadwa is making his determination on the failure by Ministry of Local Government to rein in on sub-standard structures in the country’s cities)
Mbadwa: This is not the first time this court is tackling an issue of infrastructural development in the country’s cities. There have been concerns that most structures in our cities are an eyesore and their development does not follow any set blueprint.
Village structures are mushrooming everywhere, raising a question why the councils should still maintain the town planning and engineering departments when there appears to be no planning at all. Town roads are almost non-existent.
Tired of the current state of affairs, citizens asked this court to summon the parent of the councils, the Ministry of Local Government, to explain why they are not reining in on city fathers. I don’t want to be speaking to myself; is the Minister of Local Government Sangalalani Nakondwa, his principal secretary and directors present in this court?
Court Clerk: My Lord, they are all present, including the popular mayor of the city of Kabula, the most vilified city father of the Capital City and the new mayor of the City of Zomba. The mayor of the City of Mzuzu is also present, although he is sitting at the back. He has just arrived this morning from China, a trip the honourable Nakondwa said he did not approve.
Mbadwa: We are not here to determine whether visitations by councils should be approved by the Ministry or not. But the citizens want an explanation why the entire hierarchy of the Ministry of Local Government is sitting cross-legged and not acting on the rot taking place in our cities.
Look at the City of Blantyre, for instance, the citizens are asking why prime land along the highways and in the central business district (CBD) is littered with warehouse-like structures that eat a lot of land instead of allowing developers erect skyscrapers or multi-storey structures? And talking about Limbe; it is a prototype of a nauseatingly mismatch of standards. New structures are deteriorating at the rate of the derelict ones surrounding them, yet they were approved by city engineers.
Lilongwe is even worse; most of the structures mushrooming in the CBD are of the hostel type (midadada). Where is the city going to get land to fulfil its metropolitan ambitions? Mzuzu is erecting more shacks than proper buildings while Zomba fits being called a museum city with most of its colonial buildings that have never seen renovations.
Honourable Minister and your team, what is your job? Conducting meaningless familiarisation tours or ensuring that standards are being adhered to?
Sangalani Nakondwa: My Lord, we have been taken by surprise by this summoning. We understand the magnitude of the challenges in councils. Can you give us two weeks to consult so that we furnish this court with proper answers?
Mbadwa: Request granted, but this court will not accept any delay on the matter. In two weeks’ time we will gather here to hear from the minister and his team why they are not taking councils to task over sub-standard structures in the city. Court dismissed. n