Counting cost of road furniture theft

Blantyre, : He could not believe that the long awaited driveway connecting Nsanje Boma and Marka, a Malawi-Mozambique Border area, would now take off.

The doubting Senior Chief Malemia of Nsanje remained skeptical until he saw a Chinese contractor China Railway 20 Bureau start mobilising plants on site for works on the 29-kilometre stretch.

This day will go down in history as a memorable because it is when what seemed just like a dream came to reality. We are very grateful that finally construction of the road has taken off.

For many years, people in Nsanje have been looking for a good road between the two points.

This was a very difficult road to travel on but now that we have contractors on the ground, it is no longer a lie, Malemia said recently after meeting Roads Authority (RA) Board Chairperson Brown Mpinganjira.

The interface meeting was aimed at introducing the project and its contractor to the local authorities.

The Nsanje Boma � Marka Road was part of former Malawi president late Bingu wa Mutharika’s dream of turning Nsanje District into a city.

Much as Senior Chief Malemia can afford a smile, he is still nervous.

We have had incidences where road construction materials are stolen derailing the process in the long run.

We do not want that to be the case with this road because we have waited for it since time in memorial, Malemia said.

Malemia’s anxiety could be justified because the K11 billion road project will involve upgrading the only remaining earth road stretch on the M1 to bitumen standard.

If statistics from the RA on theft of road furniture are anything to go by, then the soft-spoken traditional leader could be justified in his fears.

Annually, over K500 million goes down the drain to such kind of theft, according to RA.

This in turn, escalates the cost of road projects countrywide putting a strain on tax payers and development partners’ funds that are mostly hard to come by.

Mpinganjira said fuel remains the most vulnerable target among road furniture that is stolen in most infrastructure construction projects in the country.

This is a big problem because there is so much theft. When people steal road furniture, durability of such facility is compromised.

People should learn to own such kind of projects because they are intended to benefit the community at large, said a visibly concerned Mpinganjira.

I have asked the community here to guard the contractor’s equipment and other road furniture with their life if they want this road to last longer, he said.

In most cases, he said, government is forced to replace the stolen road equipment using money that could have been directed to other development activities.

Mpinganjira noted with a tinge of regret that some unpatriotic citizens have already started looting the newly constructed Mzuzu � Nkhata Bay Road.

I have received reports that someone was found tampering with the road surface for no apparent reason.

When this happens, people start pointing fingers at the country’s leadership that they are not doing a good job, which is very unfair, Mpinganjira said.

As construction work begins on the Nsanje � Marka Road, Mpinganjira said compensation will only be paid to those that deserve the same.

We do not envisage any problem at all on compensation because money is available. The district commissioner’s office has a few things to finalise before we can start paying out the compensations, he said.

From Nsanje Boma, the new tarmac road will follow the old road for eight kilometres and veer off towards the railway line to run parallel to it through South and South West constituencies.

In his reaction, Traditional Authority (TA) Tengani who also seats on the RA Board and comes from Nsanje appealed to his fellow local leaders to guide the contractor so that the road stands the test of time.

The contractor is new here. We understand the weather here better than anyone else. It is our road; therefore, we have a responsibility to guide the contractor where possible for it to last longer, Tengani said.

Once completed, the road project will lessen hardships that 40, 000 people in TAs Malemia, Ngabu, Chimombo and Ndamera experience to transport farm produce and other commodities to and from Nsanje Boma.

Senior Chief Malemia said people in the area do not expect to see the road project turn into a white elephant.

We will be very strict.

Whoever will be found to be throwing spanners in the works by either tampering with construction plants, siphoning fuel or damaging the road will face the long arm of the law, Malemia warns.

We would like to warn evil-minded people with intentions to derail the multi-million kwacha project that they should not even think about it, he says.

However, Malemia appeals to the contractor to hire natives of the area for the jobs that do not need technical expertise.

On a lighter note, Mpinganjira stunned local leaders and council officials at the interface meeting when he asked them to extend a word of caution to girls and women in the area.

They should not expose themselves to the construction workers because at the end of the project, we don’t want to end up with fatherless children around, he said.

Source: MANA Online