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Government priotises road to First Lady’s home

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Government has come under fire from communities around Mbela in Balaka district for prioritising to construct a road leading to Khwisa, the First Lady Getrude Mutharika’s home at the expense of another economically viable road in the district.

Some community members from the district, particularly from Mbela, Toleza and Ulongwe, have expressed dismay over the construction of the road saying it has no economic benefit to the area and that the only reason it is being constructed is because it goes to the First Lady’s home.

Malawi News this week established that, two months ago, Mota Engil commenced the construction of the road.

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A visit to the site of construction by Malawi News has revealed that the road is indeed leading to Khwisa.

Community members we met along the road to Mbela said they are not against development in the area but accused government of having upside down priorities based on favouritism.

Apparently, the people feel government should have started construction of the Mbela road.

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Amos Hamidu did not mince any words, but described the project as “useless”.

“We just heard Mota Engil is constructing a road leading to the First Lady’s home, I say this with strong conviction because the Mbela road is one that MPs have won votes for. This road is bad and it is always a reference point when someone is trying to get us to vote for them but look what is happening, they are giving priority to that road.

“There is a bridge along this road and during rainy season it swells up. Just last rainy season about three people lost their lives,” he said.

Miga Phambala who corroborated with the others said if government prioritised the Mbela road they would have changed the face of Balaka and improved the welfare of many people.

“If this road (Mbela) was constructed, it would have eased transportation costs as it connects this area to Ulongwe and Mbela Trading Centre where we buy sweet potatoes and other merchandise for sale. This is a very busy road and if the road projects are being done in an honest manner with the right motives this road should have come first not the Khwisa road,” she said.

A source who confided in us but opted for anonymity said the project was not tendered for, and the people were not consulted on the issue.

“To be frank with you this road is leading to Khwisa because the First Lady comes from that area, otherwise this road will not serve the greater purpose as compared to the road that leads to Mbela, all the way to Ulongwe.

“Mbela-Toleza Farm road is a busy road and if government was transparent with its intentions people of Balaka would have opted for this ‘ignored’ road, am saying ignored because the people of Balaka have launched complaints regarding this road on how it is affecting their businesses and even day to day life,” he said.

He further said reports making rounds in the district say Mota Engil is constructing this road as a token of appreciation for being awarded the Balaka Mangochi road project.

“So apparently Mota Engil is constructing the road as a way of giving back to the community at least that is the picture being portrayed. You will not hear anything about a tender that was issued regarding this project,” he said.

Member of Parliament for the area Lucius Banda confirmed the development saying a number of people have approached him on the issue of road choice.

“Without favouring one area but if people were to be consulted widely they would have loved this development to come, but the preferred road remains that which connects the road from Balaka to Ulongwe passing through Mbela. This road is very crucial as it connects to most parts where a lot of economic activities take place and it is the most used route unlike the Khwisa road. But all the same we have welcomed the development,” he said.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa, was in Parliament when contacted.

Mgeme Kalilani, Press Secretary for the State House could not be reached for a comment.

But Balaka District Commissioner Roderick Mateauma denied the allegation and was quick to say it is not only the First Lady who comes from Khwisa, saying there are other communities there.

“I will not speak on the issue of tender as that is technical and you will have to speak to our Director of Public Works. What I know is that the road is not going to the First Lady’s home. There are so many roads here in Balaka equally important and I wonder as to on what basis are the people accusing the choice of this road. All roads are important,” he said.

Social commentator Rafiq Hajat has described the development as unfortunate saying such infrastructural projects only benefit those in power.

“In a way it is almost selective application of an ego massage. What I mean is developments that take place in constituencies promote self-agendas. As a country we need to have a national plan that will comprise of road networks. This national plan will help to determine which road is needed the most without politics coming into play,” he said.

Spokesperson for Mota Engil Thomas Chafunya confirmed that Mota Engil is indeed doing the construction work but declined to comment further.

“We are just contractors of the road. If you need more details talk to Roads Authority,” he said.

On Thursday this week Member of Parliament for Mzimba West Harry Mkandawire, during a private members day, claimed government offers contracts to Mota Engil without the company competing in bidding processes.

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