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K200 million on what?

Slightly over two years ago, in one of my articles in this column I wrote an article titled “Blantyre city will drink sewage next”. The article was based on what happened in Area 18 in the city of Lilongwe where residents had water contaminated with sewage flow through their taps.

This happened in part because the sewer system needed repairs that were long overdue. At the time I wrote the article something similar was taking place in the city of Blantyre. Residents complained of a broken sewer system that had stayed in a state of disrepair for years.

Here are some excerpts from the article…

According to an article in the Malawi News of last week, the city of Blantyre is a public health crisis waiting to happen due to likely water contamination that could happen if the city’s sewage system is not repaired immediately.

Apparently, the Blantyre City Council (BCC) has not learned anything from what happened in Lilongwe because some residents have reported that they have lived next to a broken sewer pipe for over three years. Adding to that, it has been revealed that the city’s sewer system is next to non-functional having had no upgrades since the 1970s when it was first built.

It is interesting that BCC is quite aware of the problem but “is overwhelmed due to population growth” to take any meaningful action. Before the council expects us to believe this explanation, I believe it is only fair that a few things be made clear. For instance, doesn’t the council have a strategic plan that projects population growth in the city?

I bring all this up again today because of what surfaced in the newspaper last week. The Blantyre City Council has proposed to the Ministry of Local Government to spend K200 million on two vehicles, a Toyota Prado TX and Toyota Fortuner for the mayor Wild Ndipo and his deputy Joseph Makwinja respectively.

Now, this is a proposal coming from a city council whose residents are still living next to broken sewer pipes with toilet contents spilling out into streets and freely flowing and mixing with rainwater that goes into the city’s rivers. This is a city with unhygienic markets in places like Chirimba and Ndirande where piled up garbage is as common as piles of merchandise on sale.

The question that needs to be answered is, what is the city council’s priority? Is it the wellbeing of the tax-paying residents of Blantyre or the comfort and luxury of mayors Ndipo and Makwinja and their band of councilors? How will the two feel riding in machines that cost K200 million when the residents on whose backs this money is made are walking on sewage-spilled streets?

Please, don’t read me wrongly. I am not against these two gentlemen getting top of the range vehicles. I mean, how else will the city feel the importance of the mayor’s office, right? But, the timing is misplaced. I honestly don’t believe that the city council can justify purchasing these two vehicles at this particular time.

How about cleaning up the markets and repairing the sewer system first? How about beefing up the salaries of the council’s employees and buying them work equipment and protective gear? I am sure Blantyre city residents would appreciate their taxes spent on this more than what it will cost to maintain these proposed luxury cars.

BCC has argued that people shouldn’t get all paranoid over this as it’s only a proposal awaiting approval from the Ministry of Local Government. I get this, but what if the ministry says yes? Just by having this expenditure as a council resolution, it is an indication of where the councils’ leadership priorities are. It’s not the residents.

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