Residents of Thoto area in Nkhata-Bay District have complained that the MV Illala no longer stops to pick passengers in their area, saying this is putting peoples’ lives at risk as they are forced to board unfit boats.
In an interview, one of the residents Gertrude Mhone said people of Thoto used to board MV Illala when travelling since the roads are poor. From Nkhata-Bay, the steamer would stop over at Thoto Mang’wina on its way to Usiysa but this has not been happening over the past three years.
“This used to be our only reliable means of transport. But we wonder that the steamer never stops these days. They just cruise past,” said Mhone.
“We lost a child on our way from Nkhata-Bay town when the boat we were traveling on capsized. If the vessel was stopping here at Thoto Mangwina as it was doing before, the death of the child would have been avoided.”
Another community member and a regular traveller Simon Nyimba emphasized the need for the government to improve water transportation between Nkhata-Bay, Thoto, and Usisya.
“We board these unfit boats because we don’t have an option; otherwise, we are not safe, and our lives are in danger. We are requesting the resumption of MV Illala to be stopping at Thoto Mangw’ina as it used to be in the past. You know we have no other means of transport here than water.” Nyimba said.
Sub-Traditional Authority Khoza also expressed his worries over the suspension of the vessels services at Mangw’ina.
“Let me agree with my people that we are not safe. we are going to be attending funerals now and again if the issue of transport is not duly addressed. These boats are not safe even though we are boarding but we have no choice,” said Khoza.
Thomas Chafunya who is Public Relations Manager for Motal-Engil, a company that is operating steamer services in the country, requested for more time to comment on the matter.
“I need more time to ask my colleagues to provide me with up-to-date and correct information. As such, I can’t respond at the moment until I have full facts and details. Issues of transportation are very critical. They need accurate information,” said Chafunya.
In a separate interview, Minister of Transport and Public Works Hon. Jacob Hara said his ministry is aware of the challenge people in Thoto in Nkhata-Bay face as far as issues of transport are concerned.
“I understand that currently the vessel has been withdrawn to undergo service maintenance. Plans for lake services will be announced soon, and the people of the Thoto will be enjoying them as they used to. The government is so committed to improving transportation country-wide that the ministry is going to advise Motal-Engil, the vessel, to start stopping at Thoto Mangw’ina as it used to do in the past,” said Hara.
Since colonialism, there’s been no road connecting Thoto and Nkhata-Bay town and the only means of getting to the area is by water transport using ship or boat.