Four weeks after Malawi Electora Commission (MEC) launched the campaign period for the fresh presidential poll on May 2, Malawians have already been fed with many promises from the three political parties contesting in the coming elections.
Atupele Muluzi who is runningmate for DPP-UDF alliance is promising the youth that DPP-UDF government will address digital poverty by offering free data, laptops and cellphone.
Saulos Chilima who is runningmate for Tonse alliance has stuck to the same promises he gave to Malawians last year that a 50kg bag of fertilizer will be sold at MK4500 universally. We are yet to hear a tangible promise from Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development.
In Neno, the campaign is all about one road. Ben Phiri who is the director of elections for DPP was in Neno and his main point in his address to people of Neno he found gathered at Neno boma, Ligowe, Kambale and Zalewa trading centers was that within 21 days from 17 May, 2020 a Chinese company will be in the district to start afresh the road this time from Neno district headquarters to Tsangano turn off in Ntcheu.
Two days later, the Tonse Alliance sent Mark Katsonga and Kamuzu Chibambo in the district to drum up the campaign for the alliance. Their message was clear; vote for Chakwera as he is the one who is going to construct durable road to the district.
According to Katsonga who was also MP for Neno South, for over 13 years the DPP government has failed to give people of Neno the road which they keep on promising.
“They come here each and every campaign period promising us the road, we listen to them by giving them our votes but what they have given us in exchange is a 10 kilometer tala ozira. I am asking my fellow citizens of Neno not to vote for this liars. When the poll date is set let’s go in large number and vote for MCP which is promising as a durable road,” said Katsonga.
But according to Ben Phiri who is also minister of Local Government, Mkaka construction Company which he said is “owned by a Malawi Congress Party Official” was given a contract by government to construct the road from Neno turn Off to Neno Boma (36 kilometers).
Phiri said the company constructed a sub-standard road to disappoint DPP government that’s why government told the company to stop after finishing only 5 kilometers of phase 1 of the road.
Hebrews Misomali, a social activist who is also Spokesperson for Friends of Neno and Mwanza districts, said he is not surprised that every politician who come to campaign in Neno focus on the road to the district because 56 years after independence people of Neno are still lacking roads and essential infrastructures that would make life of citizens in the district easier.
He said their promises about Neno tarmac road are good and encouraging, but citizens in the district will be happy if they see the actual work on the ground because they have heard such promises for over a decade but not a single government has fulfilled its promises.
“If you want votes don’t mock us with your promises just show us your work, this is a district with no district hospital build by government, no police station, no district secondary school, no proper government administration infrastructures, no college and most of all no road network. We have no basic infrastructures befitting a district and many people don’t know that even Neno district Hospital was built by Clinton Hunters Foundation not government,” said Misomali.
He said people in Neno are dependent on agribusiness but they are failing to take their products to markets in Blantyre because of transport.
“Our people are angry, they can’t wait. It takes us long time to reach Blantyre while one from Lilongwe finds it easier and faster to reach the same destination. Our people don’t want to keep waiting, we need a road now. All we need is a road come hell or high waters what we need is a road, a good and strong road to take us home,” pleaded Misomali.
According to Misomali even the increase of mob justice in the district is as a result of poor road network because the police cannot get to the crime scene in time and cannot do anything faster to curb or prevent criminal acts for lack of facilities like infrastructures and easy mobility even when they have a locomotive.
“I would like to suggest that the authorities should be fair with us otherwise we have been treated as second class citizens in our own country by being given a bad road which is even broken before completion,” added Misomali.
Leonard Mphidza who is Publicity Secretary for Neno Public Tracking Expenditure Committee (PTE) blamed Neno based Civil Society Organizations for failing to advocate for the tarmac road to the district headquarters and Neno citizens for remaining quite when they are treated as second class citizens.
“We have information that other organizations officials working in the district are enjoying benefits and huge hardship allowances just because they are working in the district which is difficult to reach hence their quietness to defend the need of our people which is road,” said Mphidza.