Communities from Mitondo, Masenjere and Fatima have expressed concern with the delay to complete the 60-kilometre (km) road from Thabwa in Chikwawa to Fatima in Nsanje District.
The $53 million (about K4.3 billion) World Bank-funded road rehabilitation project started in 2018 and was scheduled to be completed in 2020.
When complete, the road will connect Chikwawa and Nsanje districts at Makhanga via the Shire River’s East Bank. However, only a 20-km stretch from Thabwa to Mitondo in Chikwawa was upgraded.
Community members bemoaned high transport costs from Thabwa to Fatima due to the poor condition of the road.
Aaron Butao, a trader at Masenjere Trading Centre in Chikwawa, said it was expensive to travel to other markets such as Fatima and Makhanga to sell his fish due to the bad shape of the road.
“I was excited when I saw the road being rehabilitated. I had hope that my life will change because I would pay less transport for my business itinerary,” he said.
Traditional Authority Makhuwira said the East Bank is known for agricultural and fishing activities, which need a good road network to ease the transportation of the commodities to markets.
Chikwawa East legislator Rodrick Khumbanyiwa (United Democratic Front) said it is difficult for ambulances to take patients from the East Bank to Chikwawa District Hospital during the rainy season.
In an interview, Roads Authority spokesperson Portia Kajanga admitted that the initial contract for the project with China Railway Number 5 contractor was cancelled.
She said the contract was later given to Plem Construction Company and Mota Engil to finish the construction of bridges and drainage works on the remaining 40km.
However, Kajanga did not indicate when the remaining part will be concluded, saying funds—which the World Bank made available for the project—have been depleted.
“Government is sourcing out some funds to put bitumen on thefirst 20km that has been upgraded by early next year,” she said.