Upgrade of the 75-kilometre earth Njakwa-Livingstonia- Chitimba Road to bitumen standard has stalled, prompting communities to accuse government of politicising the road.
The communities, through Phoka-Henga Development Forum, have accused the Democratic Progressive Party government of hinging its re-election drive in 2019 on the K 39.9 billion project.
President Peter Mutharika launched construction of the road in March 2015 but actual work on the ground began on April 24, 2016.
Forum member Reverend Makuni Gondwe t o l d The Daily Times recently that the delay on the project is government’s tactic of wooing people in the area to vote for it.
“People appreciate that the government is constructing the road but there is misinformation that bitumen has started being applied on the road but this is not true.
“May government make sure the contractor moves with speed on the road’s construction because people are questioning its progress and are thinking the road was deliberately commenced at such a time that resonates well with elections in 2019. We as a forum are greatly concerned,” Gondwe said.
During a tour of the road which is being constructed by Mota-Engil on Saturday, it came to light that only 10 kilometres of civil work has so far been done.
In reaction, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango hit, back at the communalities’, saying the current administration has no reason to politicise the road.
“Peter Mutharika already campaigned and he has no reason to attach that to development but what people must understand is that constructing a road is not a joke.
“When government commits to constructing a road within a specified time frame, we commit to that but mind you challenges are inevitable. We decided deliberately to start works from the Livingstonia side due to its poor terrain,” Mhango said.
He, however, conceded that the contractor is behind schedule but asked for patience, saying Mota-Engil will make up for the lost time by bringing additional equipment.
Roads Authority (RA) Acting Board Chair Timothy Saopa said the weather in the area was not conducive for the contractor to carry on with work.
“Everything being equal, as per agreement, the contractor should have done over 20 kilometres of civil work but he has only managed 10 kilometres. However, the weather here is impacting negatively on progress.
“We as RA cannot question much because there is too much rain here. Most of the camp [for the contractor] is idle because of the rain and mobility is even harder on the road so the contractor has to wait until it is dry to resume work.
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