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Rail deal politics ‘irks Lazarus Chakwera’

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SUPPORTIVE OF PROJECT—Zimba

The State House has said President Lazarus Chakwera is frustrated with “politics” surrounding the Bangula-Marka railway line project.

Some community members and traditional leaders in Nsanje District are protesting the intention by the Ministry of Transport to offer the deal to China Railways 20 Bureau Group Corporation at K68.2 billion.

The community members say they have reservations with the contractor, who they accuse of doing shoddy work on the Marka-Nsanje Road.

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Responding to questions Tuesday during the Quarterly State House Briefing at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, State House Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda said Chakwera wanted the project to be implemented with speed.

Kasunda said Chakwera’s frustrations with slowness in procurement procedures was not a secret.

“Even when he launched the reforms, he expressed the same and that the Public Sector Reforms being championed by the Vice President [Saulos Chilima] are meant to fix the broken systems, including the procurement systems,” he said.

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According to Kasunda, this is why the President had made sure that governance institutions were empowered to be able to identify and stop acts of mis-procurement.

“More importantly, you may recall that, in September 2020, the President declared in Parliament that no matter what broken system, no matter what stands in the way, the railway will be done and he is determined to deliver on that promise,” Kasunda said.

Head of Presidential Delivery Unit Colleen Zamba Tuesday equated the conduct of community members in Nsanje, who are protesting the award of the contract to the Chinese firm, to mob justice.

She said it was wrong to say China Railways 20th Bureau Group Corporation was not well equipped to handle the rail project just because one of the roads it worked on was washed away.

Zamba said many roads which were not constructed by the company were destroyed due to the effects of tropical storms Ana and Gombe that hit the Southern part of Malawi early this year.

She said the communities did not use the right channels to voice out their concerns.

Last week, Transport Minister Jacob Hara said the ministry had not received any complaint during the official time of the intention to award the contract.

Hara said the ministry would proceed into contract negotiations with the successful contractor before signing contract papers.

The 72 kilometre-stretch is part of the Sena railway line which links Malawi to the port of Beira in Mozambique.

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