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Blantyre Cultural Centre rehabilitation works drag

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Rehabilitation works at the once mighty entertainment Mecca, Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) – formerly French Cultural Centre– are moving at a snail’s pace.
The Daily Times has discovered that since the place was ransacked by thieves in 2011, not much has been done, in terms of rehabilitation, despite the venue hosting events, including the Blantyre Arts Festival (Baf) in October last year.
For instance, the offices are yet to be rehabilitated.
So far, places that have been renovated include the amphitheatre, whose roof was well thatched with grass, and the auditorium.
However, the other areas are still in a sorry state with electricity and water connections still not completed.
Deputy Director of Arts in the Ministry of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Humphrey Mpondaminda, said rehabilitation works were planned to be done in phases over a three-year period.
“The phasing was done because, for a project like this one, Treasury could not fund the whole project in just one year. For example, in one financial year, only K50 million was disbursed by the Treasury,” Mpondaminga said.
He added that, at the start of the project, rehabilitation works focused on issues such as electrical and plumbing works (including toilets) which were heavily vandalised.
“These were priotised to make the amphitheatre usable and open to the public. The project is now focusing on the other sections of the infrastructure which shall, on completion, portray a better picture of what has been done so far,” he said.
Mpondaminga said rehabilitation and maintenance works in the 2015/16 financial year involving electrical and plumbing for the whole place (e.g. toilets for auditorium were rehabilitated) were done.
He said this was necessary to restore power and water supply.
Mpondaminga also said the amphitheatre was thatched three years ago
“The auditorium and two ancillary rooms such as the dressing room, carpentry works— including glazing, floor tiles fixing, replacement of doors and installation of door protectors, fixing the stage carpet, waterproofing the auditorium— were also done,” he said.
Mpondaminga also highlighted that the project is being administered by the Ministry of Civic Education, Culture and Community in collaboration with the Department of Arts, which is the beneficiary, and Department of Buildings, as project supervisors.
Mpondaminga admitted that the rehabilitation of offices has delayed, saying this was because there were technical hitches with Treasury during the first quarter.
“This affected the process to identify the contractor for the second phase,” he said.
While the centre was bought at K300 million from the French, the government is expected to spend close to K350 million.
However, Mpondaminga said the figure could be more than that due to inflation, considering the way the project is being funded.
Mpondaminga also said, according to the ministry’s work plans, they intend to do about 80 percent of the works by the end of the financial year 2017/18.
He said the remaining 20 percent is to be finished by 2018/19.
“However, these projections are based on continued and timely funding from Treasury. There are usually carry over effects when there are unfulfilled funding commitments from Treasury thereby affecting completion deadline[s],” he said.

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