Our delegation, the bottom up expedition, led by the indefatigable Professor Dr Joyce Befu, the Most Excellent Grand Achiever (MEGA -1), fully understands the reasoning behind planting ‘maize ridges’ on Malawi’s remaining beautiful highways.
We have not read any comprehensive evaluation study to conclude whether or not the speed humps on our highways are contributing to reduced road accidents and speeds. But, we acknowledge that on several occasions, we have been woken up from daytime dozing by the same maize ridges on our roads.
However, our observation has been that to avoid the discomfort associated with the road humps, most drivers with reasonably good vehicles, literally fly over the ‘maize ridges’. These include coach drivers, minibus drivers, presidential and vice presidential convoy drivers, minister and MP drivers, police and ambulance drivers, guard service drivers, reserve bank cash in transit drivers and, of course, some civilians, except us, Malawi’s best behaved drivers.
If the president had seriously taken away the powers that he says he does not need and given them to us, we would have directed that most the maize ridges in the highways be removed immediately and be replaced with either traffic lights or tollgates. Our beloved former and late, the great (Ka) Ngwazi Bingu wa Mutharika ever ordered that the humps the authorities had planted near the rail crossing at Chirimba in Blantyre be scrapped. And behold they were removed that very night.
So, if the president shed some of his powers and threw them at us and we accepted them, we would start with the mounds and ridges placed on the Blantyre- Zomba road, the Arthur Peter Mutharika Highway from Liwonde to Mangochi. The humps on these roads look like scenery for shooting James Bond and Arnold Schwarzenegger action films or for a venue for motorcycle competitions. Those in doubt should go to Walawala in Chiradzulu and see for themselves what we mean.
The second set would include the humps at Chingeni and those on the Mzimba-Chikangawa-Mzuzu road. Whoever decided to mount those humps did not think about us, the poorer drivers. Many vehicles have been damaged there and to get spares and fix the kaunjika vehicles we have is a nightmare, a serious real nightmare. They are so huge you would think the engineer must have taken haraam drinks when planning erecting those maize ridges.
Of course, some of the humps can stay because they don’t cause too much discomfort and do not damage vehicles. These include those on the M5 road which alert people about the single lane bridges; those on the Nkhata Bay-Mzuzu Road which only alert drivers to reduce speed without damaging their vehicles.
As to why the roads have different types of road humps we don’t know, but if they all looked and felt like those on the Mzuzu-Nkhata Bay road nobody would complain.
We hope our great civil engineers, the Roads Authority, the Minister of Transport and Public Works, City, Municipality, and Council civil works departments, and the parliamentary committee on transport and public works will understand our plea and shall act immediately.
Prof Dr Befu (MEGA-1) has directed that for purposes of emphasis we should repeat that the road humps, some as huge as baby Sapitwa peaks, are damaging vehicles. And we suspect some lives are being lost as a direct result of vehicle damages occasioned by the mountains in the roads.