By Deogratias Mmana:
Government’s project to transform the old Chauncy Maples ship into a mobile clinic along Lake Malawi has stopped because of continued disagreements between Mota-Engil and the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust.
The Trust was established in the United Kingdom (UK) to raise money for renovating the steamer built in Glasgow in 1898, now moored on Lake Malawi, and believed to be the oldest vessel in Africa still afloat.
The Malawi Government initiated the clinic project in 2009 to provide mobile health services to people living around the shores of the lake in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Progress on the project was disturbed when the Chauncy Maples ship was transferred from the government ownership to Mota-Engil in 2010 when the firm got concession to run Malawi Shipping Company. Chauncy Maples vessel was under the company.
Mota-Engil and the Trust failed to honour their agreement to form a joint venture company to be responsible for the renovations of the vessel.
The two institutions failed to find solutions to the technical issues and increased costs of the project after work on the hull stopped in 2013 after noting that the technical problems would result in higher costs than the original estimates.
Asked about the status of the project and if the current government has interest in it, Ministry of Health Head of Infrastructure Development Dr Sanderson Kuyeli said the project has stopped because of the continued disagreements after Mota- Engil came in.
“The project stalled due to some disagreements on the implementation technicalities. As you may be aware, Mota-Engil was given a concession by Malawi Government and Chauncey Maples happened to be one of the vessels in the concession.
“This meant that there was need for their involvement in the project implementation. As we speak, the project stalled as the two parties failed to agree,” Kuyeli said.
Kuyeli said the Trust raised money for the project and its fund was managed directly and payments were being made depending on the progress by the Trust itself.
He said at the time the project stalled the Trust had procured some spare parts which were in Malawi and some in South Africa.
“It is worth noting that the communities that were being targeted as primary beneficiaries from this project, are being served by the existing facilities and government is committed to seeing that their access to the health services is not affected due to the stalling of this project,” Kuyeli said.
Mota-Engil spokesperson Thomas Chafunya promised to provide the institution’s side of the matter but later said he was on bed rest. Later again, he said he was on leave.
In 2016, the Ministry of Health said the project had met serious challenges beyond its control.
Health rights activist Maziko Matemba has described as unfortunate and sad that the project has collapsed.
“This was an excellent project. What government needs to do is to discuss with all concerned stakeholders so that people around the lakeshore and islands are served with adequate and quality healthcare. This will help in achieving universal health care, where leaving no one behind is the key principle,” Matemba said in an interview.
Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust chairman Colin Hayton said in 2016 that the Trust had raised £2 million for the project while the Malawi government contributed K100 million in 2009 and 2010 financial years.
According to the Ministry of Health, two representatives of the Trust from the UK were in the country in November 2014 for discussions but Mota Engil representatives were not available.
Mota Engil was expected to rehabilitate and promote the ship in the area of tourism while the Trust and the ministry would provide health services.
There was an agreement that Mota Engil would invest an equal amount of resources that the Trust and the government had invested in the project.
The project was designed to take 18 months.