Two weeks after 21 people were killed in a road accident at Kampepuza Trading Centre in Ntcheu, authorities plan to meet and map the way forward on roadside markets to avoid similar accidents in future.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) chief executive officer Charles Chunga said his organisation, an umbrella body of local government councils in the country, will discuss how to deal with roadside markets following the accident on March 23 which also injured about 31 people.
He said: “The Kampepuza accident was a big blow and it came when we least expected it. But I can assure you that discussions are taking place at various levels aimed at finding a lasting solution.
“We will soon be having our own meeting where all district commissioners will attend. At that meeting, we will discuss this matter in detail.”
Roadside markets, usually on designated weekdays, are common along the country’s main roads. Traffic grinds to a halt as vendors criss-cross the roads in an attempt to sell farm produce and other foodstuffs to travellers.
Some of the risky roadside markets, especially on designated market days, include Muloza in Mulanje, Mbulumbuzi in Chiradzulu, Dyeratu and Thabwa in Chikwawa, Ulongwe in Balaka, Lizulu and Tsangano Turn-off in Ntcheu, Bembeke and Chimbiya in Dedza and Jenda in Mzimba.
In a written response yesterday, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho blamed “some uncooperative business communities” that prefer roadside markets even when safer markets are available.
She said: “It is the wish and will of government that buyers and sellers should be provided with safe and good shelters where they can buy and sell goods.
“That is why government started constructing markets that are metres away from the road. Unfortunately, you will notice that [some] vendors still choose to sell their products near the roads.
“Furthermore, buyers opt to buy from these [roadside] vendors. What then should government do in order to have vendors sell their produce in such designated markets?”
Mbulumbuzi in Chiradzulu on the Limbe-Zomba Road is one example where buyers and sellers have abandoned a purpose-built market structure to take risky ventures on the road.
Mtafu Manda, a town planning expert based at Mzuzu University (Mzuni), observed in an interview yesterday that the country already has relevant laws that would be used to ensure sanity in setting up of markets.
In an e-mailed response, he said: “Planning laws were changed just in 2016 and are very clear. What is needed is implementation and adherence to the rule of law.
“The Judiciary sometimes issues injunctions in favour of vendors insisting to trade on busy roads when councils seek to evict them.
“Kampepuza should be a reference case. I have seen beautiful markets, but they remain unoccupied simply because vendors do not want to pay market fees.”
Manda said markets should only be positioned 30 metres away from the white line on both sides of the road.
He also said modern markets should be accessible by motor vehicles just as service stations are designed.
Meanwhile, Ntcheu district health officer Mike Chisema yesterday said four people injured in the Kampepuza accident are still being treated at Ntcheu District Hospital.
Ntcheu Police Station spokesperson Hastings Chigalu, in a telephone interview yesterday, said police have charged Kiyuson Chimkango, 62, the driver of the truck involved in the Kampepuza accident, with causing death by reckless driving.
He said: “Full trial of the suspect is expected to commence this week as the vehicle was examined and released to the owners. The driver is currently on full remand at Ntcheu Prison.”
In the Kampepuza accident, an articulated truck rammed into stationary minibuses at the crowded roadside market popularly known for stocking second-hand clothes on Fridays.
President Peter Mutharika last week visited the scene of the accident on his way from Blantyre to Lilongwe. The President also cheered seven people who were then admitted to Ntcheu District Hospital.