Simbi Phiri blames fragile roads on corruption

CHING’ANI— RA Board is working hard

South Africa-based construction mogul Simbi Phiri has blamed the poor condition of some of Malawi’s public roads on corruption and weak inspection by the country’s road inspection officials.

However, Roads Authority Board Chairperson Joe Ching’ani said the board was working on addressing the challenge of absence of, or compromised, supervision in road construction projects to ensure that Malawi has durable roads.

In a televised interview with Zodiak Television on Wednesday, Phiri said it was unacceptable that some roads were developing cracks within two years of construction.


Phiri’s observation comes at a time Malawi has been spending billions of Kwacha on roads that melt like chocolate, resulting in massive potholes a few years after construction.

According to Phiri, it is disturbing to see international construction companies building durable infrastructure in their countries but constructing less durable infrastructure in Malawi.

He said this clearly shows that governments in the other jurisdictions are stricter than Malawi’s authorities.


“In business, you must say we are constructing a road which will take 50 years without a pothole. In that case, you need to design propel compaction levels. Different materials that must be brought from somewhere to be put on that particular stretch of road and compact heavily and then put a thickness of at least 35 to 45 mils if you are going [to have a road that is] to last 65 years.

“And this must be inspected by machines that are there. You go in and you put it and you press and you can tell. So the inspectorate of our roads is all corrupt. Because you can’t have these companies build roads and the next thing, two years later, you have potholes everywhere. There is no road that I can build that can be potholed in two years,” Phiri said.

He added that to build a kilometre of a standard road today costs about $1 million.

In a written response to Times questions Thursday, RA Board Chairperson Chingani said RA was an implementing agency and that it outsources supervision services.

“What Mr Simbi Phiri factually stated was that those who are engaged as consultants or professionals to supervise road contracts can do better than giving Malawians a raw deal. And I agree unreservedly to those observations.

“This is in tandem with my statement, which I delivered during the launch of the six lanes Kenyatta Road on August 31 2021. Mr Simbi Phiri is right. Fortunately, his observations are exactly what the current RA Board is working hard to address,” Ching’ani said. Speaking when he presided over the groundbreaking ceremony of the upgrading of Mzimba Street and Kenyatta Drive, President Lazarus Chakwera admitted that corruption contributed to the construction of substandard roads in the country.

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