Malawi’s newly opened Karonga-Chitipa road built by Chinese damaged

In a classic shoddy work, some parts of the much-touted Karonga-Chitipa road have already started getting damaged barely a month after President Joyce Banda officially opened it amid much ballyhoo.

The Malawi leader made history last month after she inaugurated the 102 km road having been neglected since Malawi’s independence in 1964.

However, its expeditious damage has raised serious questions among Malawians on the quality and durability of the infrastructure constructed by the Chinese in the country since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 2008.

Commentators have observed that many Chinese commodities as well as infrastructure issues are substandard, stemming from the government’s focus on quantity over quality.

Damaged Karonga-Chitipa road

Damaged Karonga-Chitipa road

Accident on Karonga-Chitipa road

Accident on Karonga-Chitipa road

Chinese taking picture of the damaged Chitipa-Karonga road

Chinese taking picture of the damaged Chitipa-Karonga road

Second-rate materials, high-level corruption and lax regulations have been isolated as the major factors that exacerbate the problem.

The Karonga-Chitipa road project was funded by the People’s Republic of China with a grant of $70 million (about K10 billion then) and also constructed by a Chinese company, China Road and Bridge Corporation.

Confirming the damage to Nyasa Times, Roads Authority (RA) spokesperson Portia Kajanga said the development was as a result of an accident which involved a truck belonging to Simama Transporters of Mzuzu on 11th February 2013 at kilometer 74+100 where a number of people also got injured.

The RA publicist said the sections damaged cover a distance of about six kilometers.

“It’s indeed true [about the damage]. The fact of the matter is that a truck belonging to Simama Transporters damaged the sections which are being alleged to have failed,” explained Kajanga.

She pointed out that the damage to the road specially occurred as the vehicle was being towed to Chitipa Boma with its tyres completely out of the wheels.

Kajanga said a Chinese engineer who saw the incident intercepted the truck after it had already covered about six kms and took it to a police station.

Meanwhile, Kajanga said her office would sue the transporter for the damage.

“The police in Chitipa are compiling a report which will be used by our lawyers to sue Simama,” she stated.

Currently, the contractor is reportedly already repairing the damaged sections whose cost will be passed on to the transporter.

This is despite the fact that RA engineers were yet to visit the damaged road (at the time of the interview) to appreciate the extent of the damage and the repairs being carried out.

Responding to people’s worries on the durability of the road, Kajanga claimed the long-awaited road had a much thicker pavement than most of the roads in Malawi.

She said RA plans to take core samples to confirm the thickness of the pavement as an assurance that the road has the required structural layers.

The longed-for road was constructed in two phases with the first phase taking place between August 2008 to November 2009 and second phase between August 2009 and November 2012.

It connects Karonga district with Chitipa district and passes through Kayelekera Mine Turn-Off, Wiliro and Tondola Trading Centers and then proceeds to Kamyala Boarder Post in Zambia.

Previously, a drive between the two northern region boarder districts used to take more than five hours but now motorists only take slightly above an hour.

Besides the Karonga-Chitipa road, a number of other roads across the country do not last long after completion of their construction before they start getting peeled off or developing potholes and cracks.

Last week, President of the Malawi Institute of Engineers (MIE) Dr Matthews Mtumbuka attributed the country’s poor roads network to government’s lack of adequate financial support towards the construction budget.

Since establishing diplomatic ties with Malawi the Chinese have financed a number of major projects in the country that, apart from the road, include the Parliament Building, Five Star Presidential Hotel and the Malawi University of Science and Technology in Thyolo.

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