Leaders in the northern region in the arenas of religion, development and social science, politics and activism have taken turns in faulting the Malawi government for behaving “regionalist” in her manner of allocating USS1.3 million worth of development projects that are expected to be financed by the Chinese government.
The seven projects which include the construction state-of-the-art international airport at Chileka in the commercial capital Blantyre, have opened a can of worms across the citizenry with some in defence of the state and others doing otherwise.
This week, Minister of Information and government spokesperson Jappie Mhango defended government saying the northern region was “equally benefitting” from government development projects.
Mhango cited the to-be constructed Karonga Stadium in Karonga and the University of Mombera in Mzimba, among others.
But political activist and ex-Alliance for Democracy (Aford) secretary general Dan Msowoya quashed Mhango’s arguments saying “we’ve been deprived.”
He told Nyasa Times that there was no guarantee that the money for construction of the stadium and the university in Karonga and Mzimba respectively was available.
“And the projects are not actually part of the seven projects we’re talking about.”
He added: “Actually, it took billions of kwacha to build the university at Ndata (private palace of late Bingu wa Mutharika), how can a mere K100 million build the so called Mombera University. And, we don’t know whether any money is available for the project[s].”
Social commentator Gerrard Nkhata depriving the northern region of the projects was a “non-starter” not only for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but also to the government of Malawi.
“It is the most important part of Malawi in terms of minerals and closeness to Tanzania where the economy is growing at a supersonic speed,” he argued.
Nkhata said “except for the electricity and internet projects, I would cancel all the projects. If I were government I would replace them with a railway to connect the North to the Centre. This would significantly help in transporting the minerals between the regions.”
Msowoya described the allocation of the projects as being “unconstitutional.”
He said: “I don’t remember the issue being ever tabled in parliament. If it were the question would have been why not in the north.”
Msowoya then described politicians from the Northern Region “impotent” because they had failed to deliver.
“They’re tamed. They cannot think on their own. Their impotence has been detrimental to development in the northern region,” he argued.
He claimed in 1996 government secured a loan from the Kuwait Bank for the Mzimba-Kafukule-Njakwa Road but the money was diverted for the construction of a road in Mangochi during the United Democratic Front (UDF).
“It was because of the same impotence of our leaders,” he argued.
Msowoya, also a spokesperson for a forum advocating for a federal system of government in the country, said “all these should not have been issues if we were run by a federal system of government.”
Government should listen
Synod of Livingstonia General Secretary Levi Nyondo suggested “government should listen by rescinding its decision.”
He said all the regions including the northern region looked up to government as their “mother.” But, he added, it was disappointing that government was not distributing the national cake equally.
“They [government] have demonstrated that our [northern region] is not a priority.”
But UK-based social and development scientist Pearson Nkhoma said he had no problems with the projects.
“This shows Malawi has more potential for investment. Government should now do more to attract Russia or Brazil to invest.
“China cannot invest in every district. The Centre and the South are also part of Malawi. The development is happening in Malawi even if it were all allocated in Nsanje,” argued Nkhoma.
Of the seven projects only three are grants totalling $58 million (K33 billion) for the construction of the Blantyre District Hospital and Cancer Centre in Blantyre. The Blantyre District Hospital is set to be built at Kameza on the site where the abandoned Muammar Gaddafi Hospital Project was.
The projects would be financed by China Exim Bank, main lenders, while most would be implemented by China Gezhouba Group Company Limited.
Chinese aid figures are treated as state secrets. Exim Bank publish no figures about their vast loans to poor countries.
Among the grants which China has made is $2 million (about K1.1 billion) for the procurement of police for the Malawi Police Service, construction of a technical teacher’s training college costing $5 million (about K2.8 billion) and construction of community technical colleges costing $6 million.
Under the grants, China will also support technical services for the Bingu National Stadium for $1 million (K570 million), construction of a new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation building amounting to $3 million and procurement of office equipment and furniture for the Ministry of Industry and Trade amounting to $1 million.
China has pended for review road projects namely Tsangano-Neno-Mwanza Road, Mangochi-Makanjira Road and the upgrading of the Phombeya-Makanjira-Nkhotakota-Chatoloma 220 kv power line.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :