Traditional Authority (TA) Mkumpha of Likoma Island has asked government to consider replacing MV Ilala saying there are fears that the aged ship may cause disaster.
The aged ship, which has a capacity of 360 passengers and 100 metric tons of freight, has been sailing on Lake Malawi since 1951 and is the only reliable means of transport for people on the island,
TA Mkumpha was speaking Friday during an extraordinary full council meeting attended by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa who was on a tour to appreciate problems affecting development of the district.
He said the priority need for people of Likoma District at the moment is a new vessel that can safely sail between Likoma and Nkhata Bay and relieve the old mighty MV Ilala.
“The cry of my people from both Likoma and Chizumulu islands is that they need a new ship. The Ilala is old and it has outlived its usefulness and needs to be retired. Otherwise, she will bring us disaster next time,” Mkumpha said.
Meanwhile, MV Ilala is undergoing maintenance since January 19 this year and Malawi Shipping Company is relying on a smaller vessel MV Chilembwe, which has limited capacity to serve people on the islands and others along the lake.
The situation has forced some travellers between Nkhata Bay and Likoma districts to sail in small private owned boats that are often overwhelmed with capacity and rough weather condition.
In response, the minister said government will look into the matter since water transportation is the only means of transport to the people on the island.
Commenting on other development issues on the island, Nankhumwa it is high time that ring fenced project funds became “a little flexible” to address actual needs of the districts.
“Programs like the K12 million constituency fund for borehole maintenance are hitting a snug in most councils because people in the districts actually need piped water system. So there’s a lot that needs to be done in making sure project funds guidelines really meet the needs of the people.
The minister also cited the bus depot construction project as another development that does not address the critical need of people on the island
“A district like Likoma has no need for bus depots. All they need is a good boat that can carry passengers and goods safely and effectively between Likoma and Nkhata Bay,” Nankhumwa said.
The minister, who was accompanied by members of the Parliamentary Committee on Local Government and Rural Development, promised to lobby for special treatment of Likoma when sharing the national cake to help meet her unique developmental needs.
In distributing the national cake (funding), government currently uses population as a formula which puts the island district at a disadvantage as she has around 14,700 people.
The minister admitted that Likoma has not done much in terms of infrastructure development since it assumed a district status alongside Neno District.
“I must admit that when we gave district status to Likoma, there was no clear plan in terms of infrastructural development and this has been a problem ever since. In Neno and other districts, they had clear plans from the onset,” he said.
However, Nankhumwa said all is not lost as his ministry will still see how best it will come up with proper strategies and approaches to address the situation.
“As government, we are committed to develop the district. We know Likoma has unique challenges but we also know the island district has unique potential that we haven’t been able to tap or put into full utilization. A clear case is the tourism industry,” the minister said.
On his part, Likoma District Commissioner Peter Jimusole bemoaned that due to the transportation challenges, some people refuse to work in the district.
“Some employees posted to Likoma refuse to come. Some have even tendered their resignation after being posted here because they do not want to work in Likoma,” Jimusole said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :