The government has insisted that it is in talks with Mozambique on the Nsanje World Inland Port.
This comes after the Mozambican government recently dismissed President Peter Mutharika’s claims that his government was in talks with Maputo for the resumption of the multi-billion kwacha project.
“As a representative of the Government of Malawi in Mozambique, I would like to inform the press that we do not regard the article in the newspaper as the official position of the government of Mozambique. The two governments are in talks at the highest level and not at a departmental level and all diplomatic channels are open and functional,” reads a statement signed by Malawi High Commissioner in Mozambique, Frank Viyazhi.
However, Head of the Department of Bilateral Cooperation in Mozambique’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, Horácio Parquinio, told the press that there were no further negotiations between the two countries on the project.
“At a recent meeting on the Nacala Corridor Project, the Malawi delegation wanted to bring the issue of the port of Nsanje to the table and, us, the Mozambican delegation, made it clear that this was no longer a matter for discussion and the issue was taken off the agenda,” he was quoted as saying.
Speaking when he inspected development projects in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts on September 8 2019, Mutharika said the long-awaited construction of the port on the Shire River would start once the government gets approval from Mozambique.
“The construction of the port awaits the approval of our brothers in Mozambique. We are engaging them and the moment they give us the go-ahead, we will start right away,” he said.
The project, a brainchild of Mutharika’s late brother, Bingu, flopped after the Mozambican government demanded a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment before its implementation.
Bingu inaugurated the project on October 23 2010, the terminus of the ambitious Shire- Zambezi Waterway that links Malawi, via 238 kilometres of river, to the Mozambique port of Chinde.
The waterway was expected to lower transport costs and reduce Malawi’s annual import bill by an estimated $175 million, according to a study conducted in 2005.
The then Zambia president Rupiah Banda and Robert Mugabe (deceased) of Zimbabwe attended the inauguration ceremony but the barge that was supposed to be making its way up the river carrying 60 tonnes of fertiliser by way of a trial failed to arrive in Nsanje after Mozambican authorities impounded it on grounds that an economic feasibility study and an environmental impact assessment had not yet been completed for the project.
On a campaign trail in the runup to the 2014 elections, Mutharika promised to open the port on the same day he was to be sworn in as President if he were to win.
However, nothing happened in Mutharika’s first five-year term of office before he was re-elected in May 2019, although the government spent K14 billion on the project.