Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi on Sunday pleaded with Opco Limited, the company awarded the contract to rehabilitate the amphitheatre at the once mighty entertainment mecca – Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC), formerly French Cultural Centre— to do quality work and within the recommended timeframe.
Usi, who admitted that he was embarrassed by the state of BCC, said now that Opco has been given the job, it is time for action.
“There have been issues going to the East, West, North, South, but all those stories for me are water under the bridge.
“I am pleading with you, for the sake of artists in Malawi; this is their mecca, place, it has been dead for a long time. Can you do this job so that tomorrow we should say where have you been?” the minister told Opco Managing Director Akhtar Qureshi.
True to the minister’s words, there is no life at BCC as it used to be in the past.
“When people look at BCC now, they say look at Michael Usi, look at President Chakwera. Please save me from the embarrassment,” the minister said.
He said artists need to start their work as soon as possible and that failure by the contractor to fulfil the job would lead to his removal.
“When you fail to do the work, you will be removed, this is not a threat but quality work, and not sub-standard, has to be done,” Usi said.
Qureshi promised to do the work on time and that their target was to finish the amphitheatre within six months.
“We have full confidence and we will deliver this project on time and more than what the minister is expecting, in terms of quality. Every project we have done, so far, we have delivered and our clients have appreciated,” Qureshi said.
He said they are supposed to start the work by the end of this month but indicated that there were a few technical challenges and that they have written a letter to the ministry.
“Once we are given a go ahead, then we will be on site. As regards funding, this is secondary and, for us, funding has never been a problem,” Qureshi said.
There has been an outcry from the public on the state of the amphitheatre’s roof and, recently, artists Erik Paliani and TJ Bless called upon the government to refurbish BCC as it was historical and that it is where they crafted their careers.
BCC was bought by the government from the French in 2011 at K300 million before it was ransacked by thieves.
Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife indicated recently in an advertisement that it would be rehabilitating BCC and that the project was expected to cost over K150 million.