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firmly rejected the demands from Malawi that the Zambezi and Shire rivers be used for commercial shipping and has withdrawn from a memorandum of understanding (Mou) it had committed.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

Dziko lopalon da strategy kuyamba kulakhula asanafufuze shaaa poor malawi

Concerned citizen

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?


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.


dpp is a day dreaming party

winston msowoya
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… Read more »

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


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.


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.


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.


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

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