Malawi VP Kachali’s promised prison cell project stalls: Harry Mkandawire snubs VP on political grounds

Malawi Vice President Khumbo Kachali has come under fire for allegedly abandoning the construction of a K35 million cellblock at Mzuzu Prison which he pledged, Nyasa Times understands.

Kachali and Peoples Party (PP) Treasurer General, Harry Mkandawire, while close pals in July last year pledged to build the block to ease congestion of inmates when they visited the prison alongside President Joyce Banda.

Immediately after the promise, prison authorities reportedly demolished one of the existing structures, which used to house young offenders, in readiness for the new one.

Construction works started in September but nine months down the line, Nyasa Times has discovered that the project is still at foundation level after Kachali and Mkandawire stopped financing it.

Veep Kachali : Project stalls
Veep Kachali : Project stalls

The development has reportedly affected operations at the penitentiary as authorities are now forced to combine young lawbreakers with adults.

Some impeccable sources, however, claim the project stalled a few weeks after starting off following Mkandawire’s (a Northern Region business tycoon) decision to cut ties with the vice president.

“Construction work stalled after the contractor stopped supplying building materials. There are reports that the work stopped after the relationship between Kachali and Mkandawire [who pledged to take a higher ratio of the cost sharing] is not healthy. As I am speaking, there are no indications as to when construction will resume,” said a Mzuzu prison source in an interview with Nyasa Times.

According to the source who is privy to the matter, the two ruling Peoples Party (PP) heavy weights pledged to buy all the building materials while labour was to be provided by the prison (using prisoners).

“Since the project stopped we have not heard anything either from the vice president or Mkandawire,” added the source.

Reports from within the PP ranks and files indicate that the vice president is creating a parallel structure which his folk-turned-foe does not want to be party to.

Since then Mkandawire has reportedly been absconding all functions where the vice president is the guest of honor as his allegiance is to President Banda.

The source said officials at Mzuzu Prison have had internal meetings over the matter to find a solution but divisions among themselves have derailed everything.

“There have been internal meetings to see how best to handle the issue. We want to follow it up and know the reasons why the project was terminated and what we can do.

“We agreed to have an audience with the vice president and Mkandawire but some of our officers are cowards. They have frustrated the process for fear of losing their jobs,” he explained.

Built in 1952, Mzuzu Prison currently has three small cell blocks meant for about 250 inmates but they are accommodating more than 600.

The two made the pledge when President Banda attended a service of worship at the prison on July 12, 2012 and once completed the promised block was meant to accommodate about 250 inmates.

During the event, Kachali also donated a state-of-the-art Plasma TV and a cow to the inmates while President Banda presented them with 500 blankets, 500 bans, 500 drinks, 500 packets of assorted items, ten 50 kilogrammes bags of rice and ten 50 kilogrammes bags of sugar.

The president directed the items to be distributed on the spot to probably avoid prison warders and other officials from diverting them to their homes.

There was no comment from Northern Region Prisons Spokesperson Austin Masangwale as his phone went unanswered.

Malawi has 32 prisons in total- 24 built by the British and only eight by the Malawi Government since independent. Malawi prisons are rated among the worst and most congested in the world.

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