Despite city council authorities’ perceived resolve to implement the Red Star Campaign to demolish sub-standard structures in the city, the matter is fast proving to be mere talk-show as only one building has been demolished so far.
Although a section of developers obtained an injunction to stop Blantyre City Council (BCC) from going ahead with its operation, which was supposed to start in March this year, the council has acknowledged that there is one developer who has demolished his building and is constructing another out of 162 buildings earmarked for demolition.
Asked if there were timeframes for the operation, BCC public relations manager Anthony Kasunda in a response to a questionnaire said they were not necessarily looking at time frames, but they were waiting for developers to come forward and demonstrate commitment with clear schedules on how they would want to implement the council’s recommendations.
Clarifying what seemed as a sharp contradictory that the council was not necessarily looking at timeframes yet a March deadline was set, Kasunda said the dates which were set were for guiding purposes.
Kasunda said: “The council through the Red Star Campaign Taskforce could not have been operating without guiding time. The council did not expect all developers with buildings marked with a red star to demolish them at once.”
But Kasunda, apart from the one developer he disclosed demolished his building, could not mention the number of developers that have come forward so far with their plans, saying the council would do so at a right time.
He said they were, on the other hand, dealing with the court matter.
Of the 162 structures that were marked with a red star, 54 businesspersons in January this year, went to the High Court in Blantyre and obtained an injunction against the council.
To date, almost a year and a half after President Peter Mutharika revived the Red Star Campaign and almost four months from the March 2016 deadline, the structures with the red star, most of them an eyesore and a danger to the society, still stand and fully being used.
As if to scorn the council, other developers have since repainted their buildings, thereby erasing the red star.
The council conceded that some properties, especially in Limbe, were repainted without approval of the council, explaining that unfortunately these are properties that the owners dragged the council to court over the same Red Star issue.
Steve Musopole, a Blantyre-based architect, said buildings marked with the red star are not only an eyesore, but they also pose a danger to the society.
But he warned that in every building, architects see lives of people and when authorities decide to demolish a building, they must bear in mind livelihoods of people getting demolished.
Musopole said the irony part of the Red Star Campaign is that there are some buildings marked red but these buildings were constructed only four years ago, approved by the same council.