President Lazarus Chakwera says leaders who came after former President Kamuzu Banda abandoned railway transport and looted railway companies, leading to high cost of transportation which continues to affect prices of imported goods.
Chakwera was speaking today in Balaka where he opened the Shire North Railway Bridge.
The president noted that Malawi’s founding president Kamuzu Banda extended the country’s railway network from Blantyre to Lilongwe and then to Mchinji with the vision of linking Malawi to seaports in Tanzania and Mozambique.
According to Chakwera, after Kamuzu Banda was replaced by Bakili Muluzi in 1994, a new generation of leaders emerged that abandoned railway altogether.
“All they saw was a system that they could loot. They looted Malawi Railways Limited until it died. They looted the railway training centre until it died. As a result, we are a country heavily dependent on more expensive modes of transporting goods into and across our country.
“This in turn has left Malawians in the unenviable position of paying three or four times more than neighboring countries for the same imported goods,” he said.
He added that it does not make sense how a landlocked country like Malawi has allowed this to happen for 27 years.
He then said that his administration will bring back rail. According to Chakwera, his government is looking to connect Malawi to Beira by rail and has started upgrading of the 201 kilometre Marka-Limbe railway through a concession agreement with Central East African Railways (CEAR).
Chakwera then revealed that investors have shown interest to invest in Malawi’s railway sector but they have complained that they are being frustrated by bureaucratic processes.
The president told Deputy Minister of Transport Nancy Chaola Mdooko that he wants this “nonsense to stop because it is scaring away investors.”
He said: “For every company that secures a contract to build a road or rail, there are 20 others that give up because our process for contracting out infrastructure projects like this are too long, too unclear and too slow.”
Chakwera directed the deputy minister to create a clean process that is reliable and free of political interference and corruption.
“I want that proposal for a new system submitted to me before the next sitting of Parliament,” says Chakwera.
CEAR chief executive Welington Soares said his company transports cargo and provides passenger transport services to Malawians He added that CEAR has also invested a lot in the railway sector and investments include rehabilitation of the railway network from Limbe to Mchinji and construction of the container yard in Limbe.
He then assured that is company is committed to supporting the the president in improving Malawi’s railway sector.