When ‘disaster’ strikes
Please do not read much into the title of this entry; it has nothing to do with Busta Rhymes’ epic album. It is but just a lamentation over what happened in some townships in Blantyre following incessant rains.
It sure never rains but pours for the people of Machinjiri, a location which was not long ago ravaged by cholera, evident by the high number of people that were diagnosed at Makhetha Clinic where even for those on admission became a problem. The cholera centre was not that well equipped with necessities such as beds, forcing some patients to sleep on the floor.
This past week a whole bridge was washed away in the area, cutting off road network and now I hear people are making do with a forgotten detour road. It is very unfortunate that the structure was easily swept away and perhaps those who have bemoaned the ‘poor workmanship’ are justified. Why should such a place have a bridge supported with mere culverts when a solid one , made of strong steel and concrete would have sufficed? Now I’m told communities behind the makeshift road are contemplating on cordoning it off, which would completely cut off movement from one area to the other. For a minute, I was going to let steam off on these communities but then I realised that perhaps they are simply trying to drive home a message to the authorities and not necessarily their fellow township residents. It is high time our city councils invested heavily in road infrastructure to ensure that we are at par with other developing nations and that our people are well secured from hazards such as flash floods.
Just look at what happens on Haile Selassie Road in down town Blantyre every time heavy rains are received; the place gets flooded, with water almost getting into the shops simply because of poor drainage system as if we do not have a city council to enforce regulations and force those who have clogged the drainage to clear them. And this is synonymous with almost all the major towns and cities. This should not be happening in this time and age, ladies and gentlemen.
But that is not the only major issue of concern. What really had me (and I am sure many others) worried is the fate of those whose houses and property were destroyed in Machinjiri as the raging water teemed to the brim.
It was sad to see, in one scenario, a family losing all its wealth and left stranded (thank God their lives were spared). But some were less fortunate as we soon heard that two people had been swept away by the water while many houses were left in ruins.
Now here is the stinker that many of you might not want to hear. Much as we know fully well that our city councils fall short when it comes to delivering a satisfactory service, we should not deliberately play accomplice by constructing our houses along riverbanks or on steep slopes which can only bring catastrophic results as we witnessed in Machinjiri the other day. Whatever happened to town planning and having a clear roadmap of construction areas within our cities?
Perhaps, just perhaps, those who were laughing off the statement that this was a ‘disaster’ by some officials who toured the area were not entirely in the wrong. If people had not put up structures, including schools, in such low-lying areas then we would not have found ourselves with this predicament on our hands.
But let me close my mouth now as this is neither the time nor the place to address this matter. I only hope the much hyped city conference will accommodate the subject.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).