Bypassing bylaws


Today, let me start by admitting that until last week, I never thought that truck drivers were integral to the life of the capital city. If anything, to me they were simply a nuisance I could do without when driving. Actually, if I was not a news junkie, I am sure I would not have even noticed when at the beginning of last week the Truck Drivers Association announced a nationwide industrial strike to persuade their employers for higher pay.

Nobody really paid them much attention when on Monday they parked their trucks wherever they could grab attention. It’s on Wednesday that we all started feeling the pinch. The city of Lilongwe was quickly running out fuel. Before long, queues reminiscent of the 2012 fuel crisis, started forming at almost every petrol station. Soon Energy Generation Company (Egenco) generators were under threat of drying up, meaning Escom would not be able to supply electricity adequately.

This is when it dawned on me, and many others I must say, that if the truck drivers continued their strike the economy of the country would grind to a terrible halt. Those of us who had ignored them when the strike started were at full attention now, praying that their demands be met sooner.


Thankfully on Thursday morning, a resolution was announced. The truckers’ demands had been met and a major crisis had just been averted. One by one, I started spotting trucks back on the roads of the city, of course including the all-important fuel tankers.

It is this return to normalcy that reminded me that actually what would have been normal by this year would have been the diversion of heavy goods trucks from driving through the Lilongwe City Centre to instead use the Lilongwe bypass. It has been a few years now since the Lilongwe bypass was constructed to decongest the roads by having all trucks that are simply passing through the capital city to the south or northern part of Malawi avoid using inner-city roads.

The Lilongwe City Council (LCC) has been sleeping on the job. I am told that there are city bylaws in place to stop truckers from driving in inner-city roads, but for reasons only known to the LCC, the bylaws are not being enforced. Lilongwe is one of the cities in this part of Africa with the most traffic police checkpoints yet none of them penalizes truckers for not using the bypass as they drive up north or down south through the city. I feel it’s a frustrating misuse of resources to construct a road such as the Lilongwe bypass only to ignore using it for its intended purpose.


The LCC is always out crying for more resources yet it’s sitting on an untapped source of revenue in the form of penalties and fines for truckers who infringe traffic bylaws. I honestly don’t believe that it needs more than just a little seriousness on the part of the council’s CEO and his team to have this bylaw and many others enforced. With the existence of the Lilongwe bypass, the LCC has no excuse to allow tracks drive through the city.

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