Sometime in June this year, the media, public, private and social, reported that the Malawi government has dedicated K120 billion to rehabilitate part of the M5, officially known as the Kamuzu Great Lakeshore Road, from Kaphatenga in Salima to Mzuzu in Nkhata Bay.
In case some did not know, the Kamuzu Great Lakeshore or M5, in fact, starts at Salima Turn Off in Balaka (or it is Ntcheu?), snakes through the Bwanje Valley in Ntcheu, Mtakakata in Dedza, Salima, Nkhota Kota, Nkhata Bay, Mzuzu, Mzimba, Phwezi, Chiweta, Chilumba, Karonga and ends at Songwe border.
This should be good news to all Malawians and, particularly to private motorists, operators of public transport, fuel and sugar transporters who find this road terrible to drive on. The 20-some narrow bridges, particularly in Nkhotakota and Nkhata Bay, the potholes and other inconveniences make life extremely difficult for drivers. Fatal accidents are not uncommon on this road, not to mention the extensive damage to vehicles.
We, the Bottom Up delegation comprising Professor Dr Joyce Befu, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), Jean-Philippe LePoission, SC (RTD) and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, should be thanked for our incessant reminder to the government to rehabilitate this road and its notorious narrow bridges.
We waged a one team war and our duly ‘elected’ government has now listened.
We are praising ourselves? Of course, and yes, we must. Chinua Achebe writes in Things Fall Apart that ‘the lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said that he would praise himself if no one else did.”
We are not typical Malawians who pretend to be humble and don’t like praise. We want and love praise. When nobody praises us, we will praise ourselves. We praise ourselves when we do the right things, condemn and correct ourselves when we do wrong things.
We don’t want to be praised when we are dead, buried and concreted or cremated. Not us. Our DNA is different.
While we are happy about the promised rehabilitation of the M5 or Kamuzu Great Lakeshore Road, we must point hit et nunc that we have created a social scorecard for the road. We will be ticking progress every 20 kilometres as promised by the government. If there is no progress, we will ask the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to organise relentless protest marches and vigils because this road is a human right, our right to infrastructure development.
We hope the Malawi Government now understands what HRDC means.
According to media reports, the government is identifying qualified construction contractors to rehabilitate the road. This is a blue lie because we already know the construction contractor who has been identified to rehabilitate the road. In fact, the said contractor won the ‘bid’ even before Minister of Transport and Public Works, Ralph Jooma, made the announcement in Parliament.
Those who don’t believe us should contact us, through the HRDC, and then wait until the works start to prove us wrong or right.
There are many ways governments steal without being caught. Overpricing and duplication of projects are just two of them.
Malawians must question why the government has included the Nkhata Bay –Mzuzu stretch of the Kamuzu Great Lakeshore Road when the same government already knows that 47 kilometre section was already upgraded with African Development Bank (AfDB) funding and is one of the best stretches of road in Malawi at present.
What this entails is that the K16 billion already spent by the AfDB on the Nkhata Bay-Mzuzu stretch but still factored into the current budget for the same road is up for abuse and kusolola.
This K16 billion should be used to build three new secondary schools in Salima, Nkhotakota and Nkhata Bay.
This time we are awake, dressed up and ready for a showdown. We are nipping corruption in its government. The likes of tractogate will not happen again under our watch. n