Malawi government lied on Neno road-residents
A group of people representing residents of Neno district has accused government of failing to upgrade the Neno- Tsangano road to bitumen level in the 2015/2016 financial year as promised by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works senior officials.
Secretary for Concerned Citizens of Neno, Kanengo Banda, whose group organised demonstrations a few months ago, said people are bitter with government’s ‘broken’ promise and has warned of unspecified action if the issue is not addressed.
But Minister of Transport, Francis Kasaila, denied having made the commitment saying government is only doing what it earmarked to do on the road.
The latest development comes in the wake of voices of discontentment following the state of national address presented by President Peter Mutharika in Parliament two weeks ago which did not include the road on the list of road projects government would like to undertake in the coming financial year.
“Our main worry with what is happening is that if the road project is not included in the budget it cannot be done. We have already mobilised all concerned parties and presented our grievances to relevant authorities. The fact that we are being told that it is possible that the road would still be done in 2015/2016 is very difficult to accept. Otherwise, we were assured that government will include the road on its priority list this year,” said Banda.
Kasaila, a few months ago, led a delegation of government officials to discuss with angry residents in Neno who demonstrated against the government for failing to construct the road.
The concerned citizens’ protests also disturbed the construction of the railway line that connects two Mozambican provinces.
A league of traditional leaders and civil society, that included Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), piled up pressure on government to construct the road that connects an area full of agricultural and mining potential.
Representatives of the residents claim government officials made a commitment during the crisis meeting to prioritise the road and now feels short changed following the omission of the road from the state of the nation address by the President.
Last weekend, the citizens summoned parliamentarian for Neno North, Emmanuel Lozo, to explain on the future of the project.
In an interview, Lozo said the meeting was cordial.
“Indeed I met the representatives of the people last week where they inquired about the latest developments on the road. Given that the road in question is in very bad shape, I do not blame the people. However, I relayed the responses that I got from the minister that government has made an undertaking to construct the road but is waiting for funds,” he said.
However, Kasaila denied having made a commitment to construct the road this year as alleged by the citizens.
“Firstly, I would say it is impossible for the President to mention all the road projects in the budget. Nevertheless, we communicated to the people of Neno that government was negotiating with the Chinese government for a possible funding of the road. However, there has been no feedback. As such we planned that we will be grading the road in phases as a temporary measure,” he said.
However, Kasaila blamed people of the area for using what he called ‘unorthodox’ means of pressurising government on the issue.
“As far as I am concerned I never lied to anyone. I told them the truth. But if they [people] think they can achieve their means by using those methods then that is unfortunate,” he said.
The road in question becomes impassable especially during the rainy season.
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