Chingale Road project pierces locals’ lives
Some people in Lirangwe (Blantyre) and Chingale in Zomba have not yet been compensated, 18 months after the first phase of Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road construction, which has affected them, started. The first phase of the project has also exceeded its time frame. In this FRIDAY SHAKER, JARSON MALOWA, explains how the delay has affected members of the community in the two areas.
In 2008, some people in Lirangwe, Chingale and Machinga District requested the then president Bingu wa Mutharika (now deceased) to construct Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road to ease challenges which they face when travelling.
However, it took 10 years before incumbent President Peter Mutharika launched the project which started on April 18 2018.
However, most people who have been displaced by the project have not been compensated. This despite that red stars were marked on their houses and other structures for them to move out.
Last Friday, The Daily Times found 63-year-old Emery Kapalasa sitting on her veranda without anything to eat though it was lunch time.
Kapalasa says she squandered her business capital following an alert by officials that her shop was to be demolished and that she should move out.
“Since then, nothing has happened. They came here numerous times and took our particulars but until now, there are no any updates on the matter,” Kapalasa says.
She says she closed her shop because she was meant to believe that she was supposed to leave and identify a new residential place.
Chingale taskforce (for the project) chairperson, Francis Gondwa, says they developed the task force to push the government to speed up the project. Gondwa’s house is a few metres from the road hence he, too, has to relocate.
He says the issue of compensation was one of the key areas which the government was supposed to look into before everything was done.
“We heard in the media that there was a special package for us people living closer to the places where the road project is being implemented but the government has not yet done anything on this,” Gondwa says.
Meanwhile, stakeholders such as Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) have asked the government to speed up the process.
CfSC Programmes Officer, Bernard Mphepo, says the government has to order the release of the K4 billion it indicated was earmarked for people’s compensation.
“In every state, compensation comes first before rolling out a project. But this is parallel to what happened here where the project was rolled out before families were compensated. Look now, they are stuck,” Mphepo says.
He, however, says the delay to complete the project is another contributing factor to the country’s underdevelopment.
“This is one of the roads that are important to residents of Lirangwe, Chingale and Machinga. It may improve the country’s economy from small-scale businesses that these people do including selling fish from Mangochi,” Mphepo says.
Former Lirangwe Area Development Committee chairperson, Dzinkambani Davison Nkhoma, says people from the area struggle when travelling to other areas.
“For instance, for one to travel to Mangochi or Machinga they have to use Blantyre-Zomba road, which is very far. We would like to appeal to the government to address this issue urgently,” Nkhoma says.
However, Roads Authority Chief Executive Officer, Emmanuel Matapa, says the road construction project is on track.
“Works are at various stages of completion on the whole section at an overall completion percentage of 75 percent with surfacing covering about 7 km [kilometres],” Matapa says.
He says they hope to end the first phase of the project in May 2020.
“As the rainfall season approaches normally production levels reduce. We, therefore, hope to complete all works between April and May 2020,” Matapa says.
Meanwhile, the authority says people will soon get their compensation.
“Roads Fund administration has confirmed that they will be paying the affected people starting from next week,” Matapa says.
In a telephone interview, Transport and Public Works Minister, Ralph Jooma, says the delay was due to logistical challenges.
“We wanted to compensate all but the delay came [about] because our negotiations with the people took longer. The rainy season also affected us,” Jooma says.
He says the contractor [Mota- Engil] asked for more time to complete the works.
“The contractor asked for additional months and we allowed him to do so. Now, the project may delay further because we need to separate the road and railway that passes in the area,” Jooma says.
On the issue of compensation, Jooma says he is aware that everyone was given their allocations.
“Some of the people who until now have not been given compensation were demanding much. Now this did not please us. But we are remaining with people who we are planning to give K269 million,” Jooma says.
He says the ministry will soon place an advert for another contractor to take up the second phase of the project and that the current contractor is also eligible to apply.
Jooma said the procedures for finishing the 62-km road will be maintained and that the new deadline for the second phase is December 2019.
That the project has taken too long to be completed is evidenced by the fact that Bingu wa Mutharika promised to complete the works in his tenure.
Following Bingu’s death in 2012, his successor Joyce Banda laid a foundation stone for the same project, which did not commenced in her tenure.
Now, stakeholders, including CSC feel that the project would just be used to campaign for politicians.
Mphepo says they will keep pressurising the government to complete the project.
“We would like to tell the government to complete the project in the next five years because it has been long overdue,” Mphepo says.
Mota-Engil Malawi spokesperson, Thomas Chafunya, refused to comment on the project.
For now, the people of Lirangwe, Chingale and Machina can only wait for the promised road.
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