Mozambique deals blow to Malawi on Shire-Zambezi waterway project

The Mozambican government has once again firmly rejected the demands from Malawi that the Zambezi and Shire rivers be used for commercial shipping and has withdrawn from a memorandum of understanding (Mou) it had committed.

Nsanje Port officially opened in 2010, but has yet to become operational.-Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN

According to a Reuters report, Mozambique’s senior Transport Ministry official Jafar Ruby retorted at a news conference in Maputo that the difficulties are not of Mozambique’s making, but are inherent to the Malawian project which was “neither viable nor sustainable in the short, medium and long term”.

Reuters reported that Mozambique had believed that the matter was definitively settled when a study carried out by an international consultancy company, Hydroplan, selected by the three countries potentially involved in the Shire-Zambezi project, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, found it was not viable.

The three countries had signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2007, but after the Hydroplan study Mozambique notified the Malawian and Zambian governments that it was withdrawing from the Memorandum with effects as from June 2016.

The study had shown that the Shire-Zambezi waterway “is not commercially navigable in its natural state, and under these conditions, the general objective of the proposed project – the reduction of transport costs in terms of time and money – cannot be achieved”.

But Malawi’s Minister of Transport Jappie Mhango has maintained that the waterway project,   is “viable.”

Commentators, however, urge government to accept  the situation and not continue to champion a project just for political expedediency.

Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) and Economics Associations of Malawi (Ecama) warned government to tread carefully on the project, saying it has the potential to backfire as it did in 2010.

The government is being asked to stop allocating money to a pet project of the Democratic Progressive Party and prioritise other key sectors.

The Shire-Zambezi waterway project was conceived by the late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika. Although it had not secured Mozambican approval, Mutharika’s government even went as far as building the port at Nsanje at a cost of twenty million US dollars.

In October 2010 it held an inauguration ceremony attended by VIPs including President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The event was a huge embarrassment when the Mozambican authorities blocked fertiliser laden barges that were en route to Nsanje.

The whole scenario was bizarre as the Mozambican government had always been clear that its waterways can only be used after the correct steps have been taken, which include environment impact assessments.

At the time, the then president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, explained that while he understood Malawi’s desire to use the two rivers for its trade, it could only happen after the viability and environmental studies. Those studies have now been made and they show that the project is not viable.

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29 thoughts on “Mozambique deals blow to Malawi on Shire-Zambezi waterway project”

  1. misheck Sibande says:

    Dziko lopalon da strategy kuyamba kulakhula asanafufuze shaaa poor malawi

  2. Concerned citizen says:

    Mozambique has spoken . Waiting to hear what the government of Malawi is going to say on this matter. The other day when Zambian and Mozambican presidents were in Malawi we were told that Mozambican President was showing interest in the project. What is this that we are hearing now?

  3. Baba says:

    Greedy politicians why can’t you construct a tamac road from from MARK to Via Villa Norva to Beira it’s 204 km from to Bangula to Beira. Short distance. We destroyed our own railway line to Beira coz of greed. Eeee mbuli za chuma.

  4. nema says:

    dpp is a day dreaming party

  5. winston msowoya says:

    Malawians,your government is failing in every project your leaders pickup.Now you might some of you agree with me that the drilling of oil from Lake Nyasa is hoax and dangerous to the environment that would follow in our country.There you are now with your unenlightened President Mutalika.You have now been informed categorically that the ZAMBEZI WATERWAY PROGECT IS A WHITE ELEPHANT.Bravo Mozambique and keep it on.In fact,the project like Lake Nyasa,would have severe ramifications on human life and land contamination.As on both projects,they are immoral,unethical and white elephant.The person who oversees the project,Jappie Mhango is by far a lame duck,he does not know anything what is going on.We have potential resources that would enhance economic development in tourist sector like Nyika National Park,but is being side-lined because it happens to be in a foreign land. The two projects,MuchengaCoal Mine and Karonga Uranium project,are both a tragic consequences which Muthalika must learn from.

  6. nedson says:

    Akachostsa njanji yawo inu popita Ku joberg muzikwela ndege?
    Kkkkkkk yalakwa basi mpwitikizi so munthu

  7. santana says:

    Ya nsanje siikuswa mazira. We are better off with a few income we are getting. The IMF is now with us to the disappointment of the opposition. This reminds me of ”Section 65 number one, Budget no.2”. The results was that adagwa chagada akulu amene aja. The opposition can be happy with such jealousy decisions by our neighbours but this will be a campaign tool by govt against the jealousy opposition come 2019.

  8. Michael says:

    If one door closes ,we need to find another one. We need not lament much at spilt waters.There are other avenues which may be explored in the interim.Furter,before launching some projects where our neighbours appear to be stake holders,we need to consult.
    Already inadequate consultation has led to loss of Billions of cash which could have been allocated to some other beneficial projects.

  9. Michael says:

    We also need to force Mozambique close the railway line passing through Mwanza.It appears they are not cooperative.Actually,they are wary as the operation of the port could negatively impact the collections from this business.
    For a start Mozambique could have allowed operation of small vessels.
    As Malawi we also need to be tough to neighbours who are just interested in refusing something without giving it a trial.

  10. CIVIL SERVANT says:

    This calls for sabotage of their railway line – tit for tat

  11. chammadzi says:

    This Shire-Zambezi waterway project exactly what is happening with the Salima-Lilongwe water project. The Environment Impact Assessment Survey has not been completed and yet the company that will do the work has already started buying material for the project with impunity. Why the rush? Salima-Lilongwe water project is another white elephant coming soon. Waste of taxpayers money.!!!

    1. naphiri says:

      zoona. seems we dont learn from past mistakes

  12. CIVIL SERVANT says:

    the issue is not viability of the project – rather Mozambique is looking at this issue from the revenue side i.e. they will lose some revenue if we stop using the Beira port. Unless we discuss with them on how much they will be compensated by us for using the Zambezi river – they will keep on coming up with excuses as to why this project cant be done.

  13. ebuka says:

    Bingu got huge cash from Mota Engel on this project

  14. youna says:

    Vuto lakusamva.

  15. chenje says:

    Malawi of DPP does not depend expert advice. It does not depend on good neighbouriness. It does not depend on donors. It does not depend on advice from opposition. It has no respect for international relationship. It’ll quarrel with everybody, everywhere, every time. It’s a govt that only tribalists vote for. It’s a govt that has destroyed Malawi.

  16. Akubwanje says:

    In my understanding, our country or Presidents are not to blame for this project failure. Mozambique is to blame because she knows well that the port will benefit Malawi as a nation. Mozambique has never been good to Malawi since creation and cannot expect such a greedy and selfish country to be happy at this. Bingu was a great son of our nation, Malawi and its hard to find one of his nature and wisdom. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

    1. Mzika says:

      I beg to differ that project is not viable from the word go this was just a scapegoat for DPP to milk us go and see shire if the ship can pass through

  17. Quabaniso says:

    It could be better that money lost for nothing had to built Mzuzu Stadium which now is completely dilapdated may be we want to ask if tycoon Bushiri can mange to build the Stadium for the North.

  18. chodziwadziwa says:

    But Malawians we are fools and celebrate in idiocy. The previous government of Joyce Mtila Banda allowed these Mozambicans to construct a railway line through Neno to transport their coal to the other side of the country. We allowed them to ease their transportation system but they are vehemently refusing our projects in fear of losing the income they make whenever we use their Maputo – Beira ports. I think our leaders are daft…its only Kamuzu who would reason and could not allow such nonsense to happen. Its mediocrity at its best in the government.

  19. lemson says:

    I dont understand this. Vuto ndi chani? Tikanalemeratu

  20. MWENDANATO says:


  21. Nzeru zayekha anaviwika nsima mmadzi. Kunsamva nkhutukumve izi.

  22. Rift Valley says:

    Is it not so elementally that you cannot embark on a project involving two countries without first of all receiving a consent from the other party? Only big headed idiots can do that.

    Anyway, Nsanje people now have a place where they can do their laundry; a very expensive one at that.

    On the other hand is this not one of the white elephant projects which was designed to generate funds for a lucky few, including the contractor of course? Otherwise what explanation can we get from the ruling party for this so obvious blunder?

    God help Malawi!

  23. mop says:

    Kusava! Upuludzu

    Inability to analyse regional politics and neighbourhood. Huge misallocation of scarce resources. A good government listens to its people and neighbours. Now look at this mdziwa ndine attitude. It has cost us resources and trust with good neighbours.

  24. so, what about the money that has already been wasted on the project? Someone must be answerable for this loss and be disciplined accordingly.

  25. Maunits says:

    DPP can not achieve anything here. Both Muthalikas were and are not in good terms with the neighboring country Mozambique who control the whole project. This is very very sad if they are failing to govern Malawi what else do you expect from them its curse.

  26. After spending $20 million the project is not viable. Who is to blame on this mess? May be the project was used to siphon some money from government coffers. Cry my beloved Malawi.

  27. Achimidzimidzi says:

    Very bad. A lot of money lost.

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