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Youths disagree with Peter Mutharika

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Some civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Northern Region have said the Ministry of Youth and Sports misled President Peter Mutharika by telling him that his government was constructing the long-awaited youth centre in Mzuzu City.

In his address to commemorate one year into the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rule, Mutharika announced that his government was constructing youth centres in Thyolo and Mzuzu, apart from rehabilitating the Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe.

But two Mzuzu-based youth CSOs, Foundation for Children’s Rights (FCR) and Youth and Society (YAS), have since disputed Mutharika’s remark, saying despite government allocating over K250 million towards the project, nothing is happening on the site.

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YAS Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka said government, through the 2014/15 National Budget, allocated the sum of K200 million towards the construction of a long-awaited youth centre in the city of Mzuzu,.

But Kajoloweka said this was the fourth time that government allocated funds for the construction of the centre yet nothing has been done on the project.

“In the previous years, K20 million, K30 million were allocated and in all three cases, nothing has happened on the project and no explanation has been given by relevant authorities,” he said.

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Kajoloweka also said it is estimated that the modern multipurpose centre will cost about K600 million and will be financed in three consecutive government fiscal years 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2016/17.

“In the current 2015/16 draft budget presented by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, government has also allocated resources for the Mzuzu Youth Centre project within the K5 billion sourced from the Chinese government,” he said.

As YAS, Kajoloweka said they are defenders of citizen rights and democratic governance and, therefore, find government’s handling of the project not only scandalous, senseless and retrogressive, but also a sheer insult to fundamental dictates of good governance, accountability and transparency.

“Ministry of Youth and Sports has in all past three scenarios failed to provide explanations on the project in question despite several calls by youth advocates,” he claimed.

“It is interesting that all these transactions were made during the DPP administration,” he observed.

Commenting on the issue, FCR Executive Director Jennifer Mkandawire said they were shocked to hear from the President about the development on the project which is nonexistent.

“We are keenly looking forward to seeing where this money went because the President must have been told that the project was rolling out. We are meeting with other stakeholders to take a position on this matter,” she said.

But reacting to the CSOs comment, Minister of Youth and Sports Development Grace Chiumia wondered who in their right mind can lie about such a thing.

“Are you sure we can cheat the President that we have constructed the youth centre? How can we cheat people that we have constructed an infrastructure right where they are staying? Who will be so dull to cheat the President that we have constructed a youth centre?” she said.

Chiumia said Mutharika said when he launched community colleges at Ngara in Karonga that government plans to construct a youth centre in Mzuzu.

“I don’t know why these youth organisations are rushing to the media. If they have concerns, why can’t they come to me? We also have ministry officials right there in Mzuzu, have they gone there to inquire?” she said.

Chiumia also said if the youth groups are taking issues politically, then that is really bad.

“I have never told the President that we have constructed a youth centre. It is going to be transparent and the budget is there. They need to go to the Ministry of Lands as well as the city council where they can establish the progress we have made in ensuring that this project is for real,” she said.

Presidential Press Secretary Gerald Viola, said Mutharika did not speak from his mind because his statement was furnished by technocrats who operate on the ground on almost every ministerial or departmental programme.

“Our youth-loving President would make all efforts in having the Mzuzu Youth Centre constructed. Whether nothing has happened yet or the project is continuing, the point is: Mzuzu will have the modern multipurpose youth centre within His Excellency’s first term of office. Actually, it should be operational as planned by the Mutharika Administration,” he said.

Viola also said Mutharika is committed to ensuring that youth empowerment is upheld in every corner of their development having been made the youth champion of the UNFPA.

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