Malawi Government’s ban on holding meetings in Mponela has highly affected the hospitality industry at Mponela in Dowa with hotels now planning to lay off staff due to slow business.
The decision has severely suffocated most businesses who have been playing their trade at Mponela Trading center in Dowa district.
Right now, many businesses at Mponela have lost between 80-90 percent of their revenue in the aftermath of the ban, prompting most accommodation and hospitality outlets operating at the trading center to downsize their staff.
One of the hotels which has been highly affected, Linde Hotel, now plans to retrench some of its employees.
Small- scale businesses such as restaurants, Kabaza operators, and other small traders who were into business of selling various merchandise at the trading have also been affected heavily.
Through a joint letter, hotels at Mponela have disclosed that the ban of meetings in Mponela has led to poor living standards of many as hotels have sent a lot of their employees on unpaid leave, adding that there is a threat of terminating their services if the situation doesn’t change.
Meanwhile, the accommodation and hospitality outlets have jointly lodged a complaint to Government. Outlets which have complained include Linde Hotels, Cornerstone Motel, Chikho, Hotel, Hillside Lodge, Vintage Lodge, Rams Lodge, Holiday Lodge, Kasangadzi Lodge, Discovery Lodge and Ambele Lodge.
Speaking to Malawi24, Chairperson for Mponela Business Association Kondwani Kuwonga-Nkhoma noted that the business environment in the area has worsened especially in the aftermath of Government ban on conferences outside Lilongwe.
“The Hotel industry has been contributing a lot to the thriving economy of Mponela. It is unfortunate that even small businesses such as Thobwa, Kabaza, butcheries and other merchandise have been heavily bruised,” explained Nkhoma.
Malawi24 also talked to Linde Hotels General Manager Blessings Kakwela who noted that since the austerity measures were introduced, their business has so far lost an estimated revenue of between 80+90 percent. He described the development as scary.
According to Kakwela, as it stands now the business is even struggling to pay overhead costs, adding that it is also struggling to meet its total wage bill as well paying for basic utilities such as water and electricity.
“The main challenge with austerity measures is that once those austerity measures were announced, non- governmental clients that we used to have said that they cannot come and patronise the business just because of the policies which Government has put in place.
“So our main cry is that government should advise non-governmental organisation that they can still come and patronize the business because the NGOs are failing to come because of the policy which is there.
“As it is, we are also finding it hard to meet our bank obligations and in the next few months, we fear for worse and we might be forced to retrench our staff,” explained Kakwela.
Kakwela also noted that as a business they pay their employees through the money they make through such meetings by NGOs, Government departments, and in this case it means they cannot even pay the salaries for the employees and they can not pay the utility bill.
“We have survived for the previous five months but I don’t think we can still sustain for the next months,” he added.
On June 8 2022, Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba announced at a meeting with Principal Secretaries from various government ministries and departments that the government has banned lakeshore meetings for all civil servants.
Zamba indicated that all meetings were to be held within duty stations and that board meetings for parastatals must be held in boardrooms
Zamba said the measures were introduced to tame waste because people in the public sector largely use activities to benefit financially.