The Red Star campaign, a 2015 decree imposed by the previous regime to city councils to demolish all substandard structures in towns and cities, still remains a dream several years later, Malawi News can confirm.
Some of the old structures in the cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre which were earmarked for demolition are still in use; posing a threat to lives and being an eyesore to communities.
Our observation, for example in Mzuzu, shows that some of the buildings which were earmarked for the exercise have simply been painted, hiding the red stars.
Mzuzu City Council (MCC) Public Relations Officer, Macdonald Gondwe, said it has always been their wish to give the city a facelift but implementation of the campaign never materialised as the council opted for engagement.
“We did label some structures for possible improvement or demolition. But the processes didn’t materialise. As for Mzuzu, we did not implement the Red Star campaign. Of course, we kept on informing or advising people to comply with the tenets of the campaign but nothing positive came out. No wonder many structures are still below par and we are banking on the clean-up initiative on beautification,” Gondwe said.
Lilongwe City Council Public Relations Officer, Tamara Chafunya, while admitting that the city has old structures, said such infrastructures are not many.
“The city of Lilongwe does not have many structures in a dilapidated state. The oldest buildings are along Malangalanga road and we already are receiving applications to develop them…most of the buildings in the old town are still relatively new and cannot be said to be dilapidated,” Chafunya said.
She however said the council will engage property owners to ensure that they paint their structures.
But Blantyre City Council Public Relations Manager, Antony Kasunda, said some developers obtained an injunction which tied their hands to implement the project.
Kasunda however said several buildings which were recommended for demolition have been razed down and new structures are being constructed in both Blantyre and Limbe Central Business District.
“You may recall some developers objected to the recommendations and opted to obtain a court injunction restraining the council from implementing the recommendations on their buildings. The council filed for removal of the injunction and the matter is pending judgement,” Kasunda said.
Zomba City Council Public Relations Officer Mercy Chaluma did not respond to our questionnaire despite several reminders.
This was not the first time for government to institute a Red Star campaign as a similar initiative was mounted in the 1980s by former president late Hastings Kamuzu Banda.