It has been a sad Easter. Losing five people in a boat accident on Lake Malawi, (with 11 more people missing as of Thursday) closely followed by the demise of one of the country’s most respected politicians under the former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s regime, Mr. Robson Watayachanga Chirwa.
It is actually a shame that 53 years after independence, many parts of the country including big and densely populated settlements such as Usisya and Mlowe in the North, for example—are still not connected by roads usable by vehicular or motorised traffic.
The deaths of the five people (May their souls rest in peace) who were aboard an overloaded boat—which police have described as an “unseaworthy” on Sunday—as they were returning to their homes in parts of Rumphi and Nkhata Bay after attending Easter Prayers at Mlowe in Rumphi should therefore squarely be blamed on our development planners’ failure to connect the two places with an access road. We are a sad country that is ruled by politicians who are long on rhetoric and short on doing the larger good for the country.
Almost all politicians who traverse the length and breadth of Usisya and Mlowe during campaigns will tell the people that they will construct a road between Usisya and Mlowe once elected into government. But once the elections are over, nobody talks about the road project and sooner rather than later people are back to their old and trusted mode of transport—boats—until another parliamentary and presidential campaign comes again.
And when an accident happens, the police will heap the blame on overloading by the water vessels. I thought the Malawi Police Service is supposed to have a functioning marine department patrolling the whole length and breadth of the lake from Karonga to Monkey Bay all the time.
It is for this reason that despite his weaknesses and the bashing that the founding president of this country Hastings Kamuzu Banda has had, I dare say that at least he had a vision for Malawi in as far as transport infrastructure development in the country is concerned. He made a mark and his footprints are still visible in this sector. Some of his landmark developments in the sector are the Lakeshore Road from Salima all the way to Karonga. In the North, the Kacheche—Chiweta Road also stands out.
During Kamuzu’s time, lake as well as railway transport sectors were equally robust and almost all parts of the country were connected by what I can describe as some reliable mode of transport.
I will not be coy to say the country’s transport sector took a huge knock during the Bakili Muluzi’s administration. The prosperous Air Malawi we knew during Kamuzu’s started ailing during this time; while the thriving railway line that once span Nsanje to Salima to Lilongwe and Mchinji also got heavily battered during the same period. The road net work also became a shadow of what Kamuzu had put in place.
Talking about Easter Prayers and the Way of the Cross, I am reminded of 2014 when all presidential candidates became very prayerful as they thronged the streets of the country’s cities participating in the Way of the Cross. It was clear that their participation was for the purpose of wooing voters. That is why you didn’t see a single 2014 presidential candidate in any of the events this year. I can guarantee that come 2019, they will be back at each and every public event including the same Way of the Cross to woo voters. The good thing is that people know why they take part in such events. So, yes, let them come again in 2019.