Parliamentarian for Chikwawa East Constituency, Rodrick Khumbanyiwa, has expressed worry over the delay in completing the construction of the 60 kilometers Thabwa – Fatima East bank road which stalled earlier this year due to funding challenges.
The $53 million World Bank funded gravel all weather road construction project is to connect Chikwawa and Nsanje districts via the East bank, passing through areas such Mapelera, Nkhathe, Livunzu Mitondo, Fatima up to Makhanga but its construction works have stalled around Mitondo Trading Center.
The development comes after the Contractor for the road rehabilitation project, China Railway Way Number 5, was ordered to discontinue works for the project after one of its staff members had reportedly impregnated a girl from the surrounding communities which was against the project’s financiers, the World Bank’s guidelines.
Speaking in an interview on Saturday when he hosted a group of journalist under the banner of Shire Valley Media club who were on a tour to appreciate some of the development projects being undertaken in the area, Khumbanyiwa said the delay in finishing off the road rehabilitation project has caused worries among people in the area who have for so long endured mobility challenges.
“We had great expectations when government started rehabilitating this road. You see, people in this area have for so long experienced mobility challenges due to the bad shape of this road. When its rainy season, ambulances fail to cross over the flooding rivers with referral cases from Fatima hospital and other health centers in the area going to either Chikwawa district hospital or Queen Elizabeth hospital.
“Now instead of the road rehabilitation project to go all the way and connect with the Thekelani, Thyolo – Muona road as intended, it has stalled in my area just a few kilometers before reaching Fatima. We are therefore calling on government to ensure completion of the road construction project so that people in the east bank can also enjoy a good road development just like in other parts of the country,” said Khumbanyiwa.
Traditional Authority Makhwira also shared Khumbanyiwa’s remarks saying local farmers and business people from the area always find difficulties to transport their produce into the commercial city of Blantyre.
National Roads Authority (NRA) Spokesperson Portia Kajanga, while admitting that the initial contract for the road rehabilitation project with China Railway Number was cancelled following reports of indiscipline among its staff members, she indicated that the contract was later given to Plem Construction company and Mota Engil who finished off the construction of bridges and drainage works respectively.
Kajanga could not be drawn to disclose as to when the remaining kilometers of the road will be concluded saying finances which the World bank had given for the road rehabilitation project have since been depleted.
She, however, stated that government is sourcing out some funds to upgrade further the already up graded first 20 kilometres of the road from gravel to tarmac, works which she indicated are expected to commence early next year.