Communities in Balaka ‘stuck’ in wretched road
Forty-six year old Annie Gideon from Chitala Village in Traditional Authority Nsamala in Balaka District does not recall a time when people from her village and neighbouring communities were fully excited about the rainy season.
To them, this is a time when they struggle to travel to Balaka town, the only place they can find public services such as healthcare and market for their produce.
This is the time when expectant women and the sick brave the bumpy road in the area that becomes almost a death trap during the rainy season.
Gideon said during this time, people in the area dig deep in their pocket to spend on transportation.
“As long as I can remember this road has been bad. This road is not safe for us at night because if cars or motorcycles struggle during the day it is worse at night.
“When the road is muddy and impassable like this we pay K3,000. On a normal day, we pay K2000 from where I live to town [Balaka],” she said.
In a 20-kilometre stretch from Balaka town into the dusty road leading to Nkaya Trading Centre, we found three vehicles stuck because of the condition of the road.
At the time of travel on Monday last week, the district had received incessant rains the previous night. For this reason, the road was impassable and communities cut off as the access road had been rendered impassable.
Jeffrey Bamusi who earns a living as a farmer said the major struggle he experiences is transporting his farm produce to Balaka town.
He said transport operators take advantage of the situation and charge double prices until the rainy season goes.
“This is not a new problem. We have made it very clear to our duty bearers that if there is development that is urgently needed in this part of the district, it is fixing the road. However, we all know that campaign comes with sweet talk but no work on the ground.
“We are from the village. What else can we do? There is only so much that we can do. We raise our concerns but nothing is done. We cannot say we will not vote people into positions because that will be denying ourselves other developments but to say the truth this road needs fixing,” he said.
Musa Chikoti, a businessman who at the time we met had his vehicle just pulled out of the mud, said that meant he would only see his family the next day as he could not get through to his home, Mitochi Village.
“I left home early in the morning to buy goods in town but I got stuck and was helped out by a Mota Engil vehicle which towed me out of the mud. There is nothing I can do and this is not new to me but that does not mean it is a life we want to live,” he said.
Balaka District Council officials were not readily available for comment despite our calls.
Nor were members of Parliament Bertha Ndebele and Ireen Mambala in whose constituencies the road stretches.
But Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira said sustainable development begins with reliable road infrastructure, in which case people in Balaka are being denied that development.
“The situation is not only putting the lives of communities in danger, but also denying them public services. Government has to intervene in this. Again, it is also high time citizens started demanding accountability from elected leaders,” he said.