Nsanje ‘slab’ project shelved

The People’s Party (PP) led government has said it will put on the shelf the highly publicised Shire-Zambezi waterway project which was a priority project in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

The project’s objective was to substantially reduce transportation costs on which Malawi pays fortune by using other countries ports namely South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique.

PP Director of Economic Affairs,  Jerry Jana told the Business Timesthat the new government will put people first and reduce emphasis on white elephants conceived out of vanity but nevertheless awarded undue priority without enough research and consultations with affected parties.

Nsanje port

He therefore said the Shire-Zambezi waterway project will be handled as a long term project that can wait.

“We have not had any discussions as a party in regards to the project, but as a party our priority remains projects that will benefit the people.

“Long term projects like the Nsanje port will be shelved for a while so that we address issues that need immediate response,” said Jana.

He went on to say that the waterway project involves neighbouring countries and it should be viewed from the perspective of an international venture. Jana confirmed what the Mozambican Government has been saying that there is still no feasibility study for the project which is a major guidance.

“We need to look at the merits and demerits of some projects. As government we need to discuss with our neighbouring countries especially Mozambique to see if they accept the viability of the project,” he said.

He said PP will focus on the Greenbelt Initiative as it has an impact on the rural communities, but nevertheless it will also have to be critically reviewed. Jana said there is work to be done on the initiative as it largely involves irrigation.

Jana said the PP constitution outlined its priority economic projects which fall under agriculture, energy, education, health and tourism.

“We want to make things happen in tourism and not just sing songs as has been the case,” he said.

Early this year, Minister of Transport and Public Infrastructure Sidik Mia said Malawi government will request the Mozambican government to speed up the feasibility process.

He said they would urge Mozambique to do the study in less than a year as the project benefits both countries.

The US$6 billion project will link landlocked Malawi to the Indian Ocean by opening the Shire and Zambezi rivers for navigation.

Last year the African Development Bank (AfDB) approved financing to the tune of US$3.5 million for the feasibility study which is yet to commence.

Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are involved in the Shire Zambezi waterway project. Construction giant, Mota- Engil has a 35-year public-private partnership contract with the Malawi Government whose future, with the change in Malawi leadership, now looks shaky.

The finer details of the public-private partnership with Mota Engil, and the grounds and conditions on which it was awarded have always remained a mystery and the Joyce Banda administration would be greatly commended for transparency and accountability if it provided these details to the general public.

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