By Feston Malekezo & Mathews Kasanda
The National Construction Industry Council (NCIC) has suspended construction of the K7 billion Mzuzu University (Mzuni) library and auditorium complex with immediate effect.
NCIC cites the contractor’s failure to give 30 percent of the work in volume and value to local contractors as the reason for suspending the works.
A letter that The Daily Times has seen, dated October 4 2021, says the stop order would be lifted upon satisfactory evidence of compliance.
It is signed by NCIC acting Chief Executive Officer Gerald Khonje and has been sent to Mzuni, China State Construction Engineering Corporation and Design Studio Architects.
“All parties are therefore ordered to immediately suspend all construction activities on the site until the stop order is lifted by the council…
“Please, be warned that the council shall be compelled to take further action against any person found in defiance [of] this stop order,” the letter reads.
Khonje confirmed the development in an interview Wednesday, insisting regulations were flouted.
The works have since been suspended.
At the onset of the project in September last year, China State Construction Engineering Limited entered into a strategic cooperation agreement and subcontract agreement with Fisd at a contractual amount of about K2.1 billion out of the total K7 billion project.
The agreement was that Fisd would provide electrical installations and provide sanitary fittings.
However, Fisd pulled out on April 21 this year and later went to court.
Fisd Chief of External Operations and Head of Drilling Operations Jack Kujaliwa, said they went to court because the contractor was avoiding a meeting with them.
Kujaliwa said they were never introduced to the construction site for over six months, a development which raised suspicions on the type of agreement they had entered into.
“After we signed the agreement, they have been running up and down; they were refusing to meet us. Normally, when you sign the subcontracting agreement, based on the job that you are doing, they are supposed to hand over the site to you and you are supposed to have site meetings together.
“We realised that they signed an agreement with us just to register with NCIC,” he said.
But a letter from China State Construction Engineering Limited to Design Studio Architects, which we have seen, with a copy to Mzuni, says, at the time Fisd was going to court, the company was still doing excavation works on site and that there was no need for them to invite Fisd to the site.
“The stage at which we were; the site was not yet ready for the installation of electrical works and sanitary fittings.
“When we got to a stage where we needed an electrical sub-contractor, we engaged one, solely for the reason that we wanted the works to progress while the matter with Fisd was resolved in court,” reads the letter signed by China State Project Manager Wang Qiang.
The contractor adds that it is taking the issue seriously and that it is doing everything to make sure everything is resolved “as soon as possible”.
Construction of the complex started in November 2020 and was launched by Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje, who warned against unnecessary delays on the works expected to be completed in 24 months.
In December 2015, the library at Mzuni was gutted by fire that also destroyed thousands of books and hundreds of computers.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.