I would forgive Blantyre residents if they have now come to associate traffic chaos in the city—usually during peak hours—with President Peter Mutharika’s local travel itineraries.
Every time the President is coming to Blantyre or passing through the city from other districts, or has a function in the city, there is chaos in the city.
When he is arriving in the city, he makes it a point that he arrives as people are knocking off—around 5pm. What this means is that police block traffic for a good one hour or more before he arrives.
If the President is arriving from Lilongwe, police will block traffic when he is somewhere in Zalewa, some 60 kilometers away. If he is travelling from Mangochi, traffic will be blocked when he has just passed through Zomba—some 70 kilometers away. If he is coming from Mulanje or Thyolo, they will block traffic when the President is somewhere before Nkando or Number One, respectively.
It is even worse when Mutharika has a function in the city, such as at the Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds. The Masauko Chipembere Highway will be cordoned off between the Polytechnic and Chichiri Shopping Mall for the whole period the President will be at the trade fair—inspecting displays and watching Democratic Progress Party (DPP) women dancing.
During this time—usually not less than three hours—all traffic will be diverted into an already congested single lane road along the Salmin Armour Road and via the Road Traffic Directorate office to the Kamuzu Stadium. Motorists driving to or from Blantyre and Limbe spend over an hour to make the five kilometers between the two twin towns of the city. You can literally feel the anger and pain among motorists as they crawl through the city at less than five kilometers per hour. To imagine that crammed on these back-to-back traffic jams are motorists rushing sick people to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital off the Masauko Chipembere Highway beats all the logic for the need to block traffic. What is the economic loss to government when people are holed up on the road for over hours on end?
One wonders why the President does not fly in or out of Sanjika by helicopter to prevent inconveniencing thousands of motorists. No one should tell me that APM likes to travel by road because it is cheaper than flying. Check the number of vehicles on his convoy.
On Tuesday this week on his return from Phalombe where he went for a ground breaking ceremony for the long overdue Phalombe Hospital, I counted over 40 vehicles trailing the principal’s car as they entered the gate at Sanjika Palace.
By the way, this is the same hospital for which on August 21 2013 former health minister Catherine Gotani Hara signed a loan agreement between the Malawi Government and the Saudi Fund for Development. What happened to that agreement? This is the same hospital about which group village Bokosi on November 7 2013, leading a group of concerned people from Phalombe, presented a petition to Parliament over delays by government to construct the hospital. This is the same hospital over which year-in, year-out since 2010, Parliament has been allocating millions of kwacha for its construction. Where has the money been going? But I diverted.
The vehicles on the Presidential convoy are all four wheel machines—fuel guzzlers! No one in government seems to care about how much taxpayer’s money goes up in smoke to have such a huge motorcade for the President. To say nothing about the Police officers who line up the whole presidential route all the way from say, Phalombe, to Sanjika in Blantyre, who could have been more productive if the President had flown to such a function. If this is not wastefulness, then nothing will ever be. n