A glimmer of hope has re-dawned on the faces of people of Thyolo and Nsanje following government’s fresh assurances that construction of the Thyolo-Thekelani-Muona-Bangula road which has stalled for eleven years will resume in two weeks time.
The 92 kilometre road, to connect Thyolo Highlands to the agriculture-rich Shire River’s East Bank in Nsanje, is expected to be completed in 2019.
Addressing the gathering in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Khwethemule in Thyolo after touring the road, Minister of Transport and Public Works Malison Ndau said Mota-Engil will commence the construction works once given an advance payment.
When completed, the $64 million (K44.8 billion at the current exchange rate) project is expected to ease transporting challenges of farm inputs and produce to and from various markets. The produce include bananas, tea and maize.
The road will also act as an alternative route to Nsanje besides the M1 road.
Traditional Authority (T/A) Khwethemule of Thyolo expressed disappointed at how politicians have been using the road as a campaign tool for many years.
Initially, the project, co-financed by the Saudi Fund for Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), Opec Fund for International Development (OFID) Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA and the Malawi Government was planned to commence in 2005, but stalled due to contractual disagreements.
In April 2006, then Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe tabled a bill in parliament seeking the authority of parliament to borrow money from Kuwait Fund from Arab Economic Development. It was to be the first big project of the Bingu administration.
The estimated cost in 2004 for the road was K26 billion ($56 million).
Contributions from creditors was as follows; KFAED ($20 million), OFID ($10 million) and Badea ($7 million) totaling the funding from the creditors to $37million, the Government of Malawi was expected to contribute the remaining $19 million.
In June 2008, then president late Bingu wa Mutharika presided over the ground breaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the project, but it failed to materialise after government suspended a contract with M.A. Kharifa and Sons due to funding constraints.
After a series of negotiations and following commitment of funding organisations, an agreement was reached to restart the project and it restarted in 2013.
However, the available funds could only cover about 39km up to close to Muona trading centre. The contract was also terminated in January 2015 due to what government called contractor’s breach of obligation as M.A. Kharifa and Sons subcontracted 100 percent of the on-going works contrary to the General Conditions of Contract (GCC) which stipulated that only 30 percent of the contract price could be subcontracted.
According to the Roads Authority (RA), close to $21 million (K15 billion) has so far been spent on the project as a settlement payment for contractor A.M. Khalifa and Sons leaving a balance of $43 million (K30 billion) from the value of the original contract sum.
With Mota-Engil, the contract is pegged at $48 million (K33.6 billion) and going by the financing arrangement, this means that there is need to raise additional resources of about $5 million (K3.5 billion) to meet the contract sum.
Chief Executive officer for RA Trevor Hiwa, government is to pay 22 percent of the total cost and the other financiers will share the remaining 78 percent.
“When the contractor is not paid in full he has the right to stop the project, it is imperative that we avoid such situations or we end up on the losing side,” he said.
Ndau also toured part of the 59km Chikwawa (Thabwa)-Chitseko-seven road which will be constructed within two years with funding from the World bank.