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An annual story

Puludzu

It is an annual story of figures depicting destruction and misery.

The figures are always high.

A total of 1,519 people have been affected by heavy rains that hit Lilongwe for the past week, the media has reported.

The Department of Disaster Management Affairs, headed by Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji—the portfolio has lately and curiously become a preserve of vice-presidents in recent years—also said a total of 63 houses have been completely damaged in Kaliyeka, Mgona, Area 25 and Ngomano.

And the councils, when we know they are lying through their teeth and have not prepared a thing about anything, are engaging in empty public relations stunts, saying they are alert for any natural disasters and that they have intensified simulation and preparedness activities with stakeholders.

But if the councils had prepared as they are claiming, would we have seen the high level of destruction, misery and homelessness that we have noticed in Lilongwe during the past two weeks as a result of the heavy rains?

Sadly, this is only January and the peak of rains is normally February and March which means we have not seen the worst yet.

As if to add salt to injury, all this is happening as some stakeholders in the country have expressed fear that the prolonged heavy rainfall which is causing the floods in some parts of the country is also bringing fall armyworms that may lead to food insecurity.

As I said, this is an annual story. It is a story of floods, destruction, homelessness and misery.

We do the same things all the years.

It is all left on the lap of whoever is vice-president who carries water buckets and parcels to help those affected.

Cameras roll and the pictures are beamed into our living rooms and we all feel bad about ourselves and the country at large.

After the rainy season is over, we lick our wounds and forget about it as soon as the wounds dry.

Nobody remembers to take the councils to task about the poor planning of cities that is partly responsible for the disasters.

It is as if we are cursed.

We do not prepare for anything and that word does not even exist in our vocabulary.

We do not seem to ask ourselves if there is something more we can do to mitigate the impact of the rainy season.

Let me zero in on cities.

Surely, there must be something that the cities can fundamentally do right in terms of physical planning and enforcing their own bylaws and regulations to stop the chaos of building houses on hills, river banks and God-knows-where-else that lead to the destruction that we see every rainy season.

Do city authorities still have the power to do anything about the chaos that can stop the rampant destruction according to their own bylaws or the politicians hold too much sway through political power to advance their own selfish populist agendas aiming at pleasing people?

When will our politicians realise that it is such behaviour that has damaged our cities not just about the floods but even it terms of cleanliness.

The late Bingu wa Mutharika’s government removed vendors from the streets between 2004 and 2009 yet he still won the general elections in 2009 massively to be handed a new strong mandate to govern.

Today, politicians in governing Democratic Progressive Party have no guts to do what is right because they are afraid of losing votes and one wonders where they get the link between elections and making our cities clean.

They are hopeless cowards.

They have no courage to do the right simple things such as allocating alternative pieces of land to residents that build houses on river banks and hills as was observed by a Member of Parliament in Lilongwe, Nancy Tembo, who said last week that the only way to break the cycle of floods and destruction is for government to designate land for people that have constructed in wrong places in cities.

Such calls have in the past landed on deaf ears because of lack of political will.

The result is that we are going in circles that lead to the pathetic failure to break this yearly occurrence.

We have not even started attempting to reverse the effects of climate change which are partly responsible for the yearly disasters which President Peter Mutharika claimed the other day, on arrival from a climate change conference in Spain, requires billions of kwacha to reverse.

We just do not know where to even start from because we do not even know what it is all about and who to blame in order to come up with proper mitigation measures.

The stark reality is that this annual story has become tired and for once, the government should realise that the practice of vice-presidents presiding over disasters with unsustainable donations from the taxpayer to dole out to people is not impressive to anyone.

We need solutions, no matter how tough and bitter to swallow they might be.

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