Having watched how people struggle to make ends meet in the area of Senior Chief Mwakaboko in Karonga district, coupled with a motivational biblical chapter John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”, pastor Esther Agnes Kamanga from Bart Williams Ministry (BWM) travelled about 171 kilometres—from Mzuzu to Karonga—to appreciate challenges people there go through.
It is the same love that compelled Kamanga last Saturday to endure another 19 kilometres from Iponga. where BWM donated 20 bags of cement for house construction for two elderly people with disabilities Ambindwile Mwanyesha and Mainala Kayange (both 79), to a bumpy, muddy, hilly and rocky journey to Ngana, through Ngisi, to see for herself how people there endure life without vital social amenities human kind is supposed to enjoy on earth.
Accompanied by Mwakaboko area development committee (ADC) chairperson Edward Chitete, senior Chief Mwakaboko, Karonga North Constituency legislator Mungasulwa Mwambande, Kamanga rode a motorcycle at Songwe border, crossed rivers, took off her shoes and walked some distance on muddy paths where she could not risk being on the motorbike, to Ngana to have a feel of life without bridges, passable roads and phone network.
That is what happens when leaders are called to serve the people they represent in society—they endure long distances, chilly weather, mud, bad terrain, and removing shoes to cross deep rivers to get to the other side of the place.
“According to Matthew 22: 34-40, love is the first and the greatest commandment. That is why Jesus left the comfort of His heavenly kingdom, came on earth and crossed rivers and climbed mountains to serve and save mankind, and eventually died a painful death on the cavalry,” said Kamanga when asked if fatigue had not yet caught up with her half-way the journey.
It is this same love that inspired Kamanga and her BWM crew to go and appreciate the magnitude of problems people in the area face.
Kamanga narrated: “One day I was watching news on one of the local television channels, where I saw people carrying a coffin on their shoulders crossing rivers. When asked why they did that, they said the road was impassable to vehicles as there were no bridges”.
She said that alone, was reason enough for her ministry to mobilise resources to come and experience the challenges as they donated 20 bags of cement for two single-bedroom houses for the elderly in a pilot phase of a project that will see 50 houses built fulfilment of a promise she made three months ago based on Deuteronomy 15: 11, which says: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be open-handed to your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”
The project will also see construction of children’s early development centres (ECDs), a bridge and drilling of boreholes to give people potable water.
“When I watched the news on TV, I was moved a lot. That is why we mobilised resources and came back here to roll out the project to answer Matthew 25: 35, which tells us to feed the hungry, provide water to those who are thirsty and clothe those who are naked.
“Therefore, we will construct decent houses to those aged 40 and above, construct a bridge where we saw people crossing while carrying the coffin and also drill boreholes to show love,” she said.
After witnessing the donation of the 20 bags of cement to the ADC, Mwambande asked the entourage to go to Ngana and Ngisi—some 19 kilometres from Iponga—to see for themselves the other side of the story, for an informed perception on how neglected the people are.
And the tiresome journey began at Songwe border where seven motorcycles were hired at K3 000 each, to carry 14 people, who included the BWM team, village heads, village and area development committee leaders, Senior Chief Mwakaboko, the MP and journalists.
The journey took longer than anticipated—three hours to be precise—due to the bad state of the road, which Mwakaboko ADC chairperson Edward Chitete said used to be smooth road in the 1980s when district road improvement programme and maintenance project (Drimp) was active.
“The road was passable all-year round in the 1980s. There were bridges and the road was being maintained regularly, making movement of patients to Karonga District Hospital and farmers’ produce to markets easy,” he said.
Having endured the cumbersome journey, Kamanga had no kind words to the elite, saying the place has been neglected and isolated as if it is not in Malawi, and she has since urged government and other development partners to urgently address the challenges.
“John 15 :12 God tells us: “Love each other as I have loved you”. So, the absence of bridges on about six rivers on this road is a death trap to learners, especially in the rainy season. And, again, there is Ngana Health Centre whose referral, and even expectant mothers, cannot be taken to the district hospital because there are no bridges,” she added.
However, Kamanga said it is possible for government and development partners to mobilise resources and give hope to the hopeless through social amenities such as good roads, potable water, schools, health facilities and mobile phone networks.
“As BWM, we will try to cast our net wider to donors for Ngana and Lukyala bridges to help patients and learners cross these rivers. If we are talking about social economic growth, then we have to rehabilitate and upgrade roads to enhance movements of farmers and buyers,” she said.
Finally, Mwambande breathed a sigh of relief when Kamanga left words of hope, saying “it was like a dream come true”.
He said: “I am a happy person today because through BWM I can see light at the end of the tunnel. This area is rich in farm produce, but people are unable to take their rice, bananas, maize, ground nuts and cassava to markets due to the bad condition of the road.
“And, again, girls drop out of school due to long distances they walk from here to the only secondary school at Iponga. In short, these people are neglected and isolated. But there is huge hope that one day they will be relieved.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Nancy Chawola Mdooko has reiterated that the Tonse Alliance administration has developed a 15-flagship infrastructure project plan that will include eight roads to transform the road network in the country, and give Malawians road infrastructure that will befit the standard of life in the new age socially and economically.
“The main departure from the norm is that we have depended so much on the Roads Authority (RA) to develop, maintain and manage all roads when its mandate is only to maintain roads.
“We are in a devolution process where RA is to get back to its mandate and the rest of the roads go to the local authorities so that we have systems that feed each other, drawing funding from numerous sources other than just the Road Fund Administration”. n