Dzuka Malawi: The Simbi Project, our self-propelled poverty

By now, you know I am no fan of politicians. They make decisions, very rarely in public interests. Many of them-both in opposition and ruling circles think of their pockets first. This is the exact case if the current storm about Lake Malawi Water Supply project, which was legally awarded to Khato Civils of one newly discovered business magnate Simbi Phiri. (I always marvel at the names of these rich people, there is one Shephered Bushiri, Mulli, another was Mzumacharo, Chitaya, Chenda Mkandawire ‘Sir’ James Ojukwu Makhumula, another Chinsima- all the names as usual very unique rhyme and traditional. Perhaps it’s time you thought of giving your son or daughter a name that will inspire riches, definitely not Lutepo.)

Back to  business, just a quick recall of facts. We are poor in Malawi because we choose to be. I have a friend who always say Malawians will be whipped by the Almighty God on the last day, when we complain we died poor.

All our neighbours are progressing. Literally the GDP of Zambia is 1000 times that of Malawi. Check the GDP of Mozambique and Tanzania. The largest businesses in Mozambique are owned by locals, such that they have made it very difficult for foreigners to operate in their country, save for very big projects such as the Aluminium plant near Maputo and Vale coal project in Moatize.

Tanzania and Mozambique discovered natural gas and oil. Quickly they engaged companies with good capital to ascertain and start the process of extraction. Zambia and Mozambique last week signed an agreement to teach Zambians Portuguese, definitely to prepare them work in the gas extraction fields. Malawians will go there as cleaners and gardeners, while Zambians will progress from Mozambique gases. Look at the huge difference between Zambia and Malawi.

Every day a Zambia bus comes into Malawi, sometimes three of them from Kitwe. I mean everyday. Meaning the route is viable for business. No Malawian has ever thought of launching competition on this route. The same with Dar es Salaam route, currently no Malawian bus plies on the route- we are too docile to do business.

We are poor because we are so obsessed with gossip and trivia. We behave as a knowledgeable nation until politics, tribalism and jealousy creeps in. We are fundamentally the cause of our poverty.

Again this is about Simbi Phiris project, but I want before we open our mouths again we should compare ourselves with our neighbours, with Mozambique’s economic story starting only in 1991 after 16 years of war. Go to the Lake Malawi side of Mozambique- top resorts are coming up on the same Lake, access road is already built. Ife tichedwa ndikuba za boma.

So I have proved how docile we are when it comes to business. Those that remain in business always over charge and do  not care about quality. In a world of alternatives, Burundis and Somalis are now selling Maluwa soap to us while Chinese are cooking nsima, we don’t seen anything with that. We don’t complain.

When a foreign mobile company sues Malawi Government we don’t see anything wrong, we don’t defend it. We hate those in power and we are happy to see them sued. We forget they will pay with our taxes.

Politics has destroyed our warmth, jealousy has put a nail to our thinking capacity and tribalism is now burying us. Look what we have done to ourselves. We don’t question the financing arrangement of US$85 million between Mota Engil and Government for the Livingstonia Synod. This is a loan you and me will pay back. We don’t worry about Mota’s monopoly of construction projects, we don’t even know if the do EIA for their projects.

Mota now runs our projects everywhere, they run our Lake services. Nobody has asked why they are dominant like that. I can cite Asian companies in subsidy, I can side fuel transportation contracts all in billions.

For investments in Malawi, our biggest challenge is to raise financing. But every time we try to massively invest to change our lives, we bring politics, tribalism and our jealousy to kill a project.

I remember Malawians who wanted to reopen the clinker factory at Changalume after a foreign company dumped it, we refused them because they were back. I remember Chimwazulu mine in Ntcheu which does not benefit locals but outsiders.

What is wrong with us? Why are we enemies of our own development. Look at Prophet Shepered Bushiri, we demonise him day in and day out on petty politics despite the young man claiming he has no interest in politics. Kodi mumafuna Bushiri azayende maliseke kuti muzanve kuti ndale iye ayi.

In 2012 we were close to completing an oil exploration project, the coming in of politics saw the project delay. Then we have fake CSO’s making noise about oil exploration. In 2014 we were back to politics, we suspended the project again as if we have money just to extort money from investors. At the time we suspended the project oil was at US$100 per barrel. By the time we lifted it had slipped to US$40 per barrel. An oil drill costs US$100 million, no body will finance that.

Our Government does not move quickly on investment projects, we lost a US$6-billion-dollar project of an airport city just because some was waiting to be bribed. We lost US$200 million hotel project in Mangochi because our Chiefs and their people wanted to suck more money.

In short we have lost over the past five years over 2 billion dollars in investment, 400 million dollars in subsidy mess and another 6 billion dollars in investment withdraw. Mostly created by our deep routed jealousy, corrupt politicians  and of course our own jealousy of others. We are cursed to die poor.

How does Simbi Phiri fits into such loses. While Mota Engil enjoys absolute confidence and support of all Malawians with these new loan arrangements for Livingstonia road and Kasiya road not questioned, we are very mad at Simbi Phiri loan arrangements which we will only guarantee on behalf of Lilongwe water board. Guarantor does not mean you pay, only if Lilongwe Water board defaults. Of course as long as Lilongwe does not migrate to pre-paid metre, corruption and incompetent boards will make us all pay.

Simbi Phiri is providing a lifeline of credit without conditions. We are very mad at him because he looks rich enough to challenge all of us. We were not even quarter mad when Malawi Savings Bank donated billions to ruling party politicians our taxes. Simbis project will not touch our money. Rather we will solve one of our poor planning mistake of years.

Finally we are mad at Simbi because he is Malawian and we expect him to fail. We trust Chinese who made the lousy Chitipa road, we trust the Indians who made townships roads that are gone in less than a year, we trust Mota who did a new rail line and nobody spoke of Environmental Impact Assessment. We are cursed into poverty.

There is a water supply project at Mulanje, nobody is speaking of because those are Asians. What is it that makes us hate each other so much, that we always play politics and tribalism when mega projects are awarded to a fellow Malawian.

The solution to Simbi Phiri project is not the screams we are making, if there is a contract, renegotiate it and let the company proceed in looking for finances to support the project. Even the IMF cant borrow Malawi 500 million dollars. Our energies should be spent on mobilising each other to see the Lake Malawi Water Supply project become reality and stop attacking local investors like Simbi Phiri.

With our poor credit rating, we should be keen to have the project succeed, may  be we can borrow real money to develop things we need urgently, new roads including intercity double lanes, energy and new structures.

Let Simbi Phiri proceed, we can tighten the contract, but for heavens sake, don’t chase him away again by creating illusionary bottlenecks in order to fleece him. If he fails to deliver, we will all be witnesses if no single of water appears on our taps  at Kauma.

Until we remove politics, jealousy and tribalism- we will die poor. Dzuka my nation of Malawi. Lets drink water from Lake Malawi.

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Nyau Thing

The author of this article must be Alfonso Chikuni the CEO of Lilongwe Water Board or Tawonga Botolo Simbi’s spokesboy!

This is a shallow article devoid of all the relevant facts on why people are crying blue murder at how the contract is being handled!


A Malawi tulo busy gossiping we don’t support each other. Politics will never help us at all………….!

3rd eye
The author is making some good points here and there but the problem is that he/she is very emotional. But overall I don’t agree with the Author. First of all two wrongs do not make a right. The fact that some foreigners are allowed to do some projects without EIA does not make it right to allow SIMBI (I like the name as well) project to go ahead without EIA. Secondly, I hope the author understands what EIA means, because if he/she doesn’t then it’s a total mistake that you even thought of writing this article. Thirdly, what has Zambia’s… Read more »

which bozwell makaranga r u,I knew someone we used to live together in zingwangwa

Before anybody comments, where are we with the Inland port project in Nsanje? This was much touted to be the one that would transform Malawi. Seven years down the line, all the money that was put into it down the drain. What was the problem? No feasibility study taken. If this was done, it would have revealed all the issues that project would face plus it would indicate whether the project made sense or not. Now we are back to square one again. How can you invest in a 500 million USD project without a feasibility study? What can of… Read more »

Great article …. Simbi must be supported .

Bozwell Makaranga
The screams about the water ferrying project are about the cost involved. It is regrettable that this important fact is now intertwined with jealousy and tribalism. The cost of this project is unbelievably high. The cost of a road which involves deep and wide trenches, fills, tarmac, embankment strenthenings and loose chippings costs about $1,000,000 per square metre (maximum). A trench carrying a water pipe from Salima to Lilongwe will only be a few metres wide and deep and should cost no more that $350,000 / square metree maximum. Therefore over a distance of 130 kilometres from Salima to Lilongwe,… Read more »

Well put. A DPP angowona kuti sasolorapo yet they awarded a contract. So now you are coming behind Kalekeni Kaphare kenako Malawi Law Society (MLS) eeeeeh koma a Malawi. Naye mumufunseso Mota Angil and the Chinese about the same. You have forgotten that the issue of tapping water from lake Malawi has been discussed heavily in Parliament for the past 15 year and today you are saying its too expensive. Who told you that good things are cheap? Kupusa a Malawi!!!

Firstly I would like to sincerely congratulate Rudo Tariro – Nyasa Times. You seem to be well informed of what is happening in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Great!! But , allow me to single out The Simbi Phiri Project of taking water from the Lake to a tap at Kauma. To those of us that have been in Lilongwe from 1987 to date, this is NOT new project to us. H.E. Ngwazi Dr. Kamuzu Banda, thought of this project long time ago. But we were told a certain Indian told our Ngwazi that that was NOT as necessary at that… Read more »
i am in total agreement, we Malawian don’t like to see a fellow Malawian progressing but foreigners, kodi ndichifukwa cha chiyambi? let able minded Malawians flourish, when a local has made progress we call him wa satanic or a murderer or wakuba uyu, come on guys !! yes there are some things which we must question but not everything. this is our country wholly own by us Malawians let us learn to hold hands and uplift each other, tiyeni tisiye kugona, busy making babies while our friends are busy doing business tiyeni tidzuke we cannot be spectators in our own… Read more »

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