‘Red Star’ campaign needs enforcement laws -Surveyors Institute of Malawi

In light of President Peter Mutharika’s recent call for the demolition or rehabilitation of buildings that are in dilapidated state, the Surveyors Institute of Malawi (SIM) has bemoaned the absence of legal instruments for monitoring and evaluating conditions of buildings in the country.

In the heart of the capital city- An Asian owned building in Area 3
In the heart of the capital city- An Asian owned building in Area 3

President Mutharika, in his address during an inspection tour with Blantyre City Council officials on February 23 this year observed it was unacceptable that after 50 years of the country’s independence, some buildings that existed during the colonial era are still being used.

He expressed the need to put in place policies and zoning laws to direct orderly construction of buildings in the country.

Adding voice to the President’s remarks, SIM, through its president Ellen Chapinduka Nyasulu said there was need for the country to have a legal framework to govern the construction and preservation of buildings in the country.

“We applaud the President for this timely initiative, which shows government’s commitment to addressing challenges dodging the construction industry. We also note with gratitude the contribution from other players including legal practitioners and rights activists on this subject.

“As government is on the move to attracting foreign investors, we note that there is also a great need to have safe, acceptable and modern buildings. Globally, climate change, safety concerns, need for universal accessibility to buildings, changes in technology and need for user friendly business environment have changed the buildings landscape,” says the body in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.

The body of surveyors, however, expresses concern that there seems to be lack of sustainability to commendable efforts by the country’s leaders as City and Local Councils as well as other key partners do not only lack capacity but also legal instruments to enforce such declarations.

“The preservation of our infrastructure does not have to wait for Presidential decrees only. It has been through pronouncements by Presidents through the Christened ‘Red Star Campaign’ that we seem to have the legal instrument to enforce such initiatives.

In the early 1990s Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda initiated the campaign which was later revived by Professor Bingu wa Mutharika in 2008 before being reintroduced by the current Head of State a month ago,” reads the statement.

SIM observes through the statement signed by Nyasulu that despite the efforts by the country’s leadership, the nation was still facing challenges due to the fact that Malawi, as a whole is not a planning area, a development the body says limits enforcement of the building regulation by-laws to urban areas only though safety issues are universal.

The body further observes that building by-laws administered by Councils are mostly assumed to apply at construction stage of buildings. Unlike in other countries within the SADC region, there is also no legal position in Malawi to influence a developer to maintain a property except the Occupational Safety, Health and Welfare Act “which also lacks enforcement,” says the body.

“With no policing of buildings in use, maintenance of buildings is at the owner’s discretion. Just as we service our vehicles, buildings also need to be maintained proactively,” the body advises.

The institute recommends the passing of the Land Bill into law which will declare the whole country as a planning area, enactment of the draft Building Regulation into law to provide a legal instrument for monitoring and evaluating conditions of buildings in the country and training of technical people who will effectively deliver on key responsibilities at district and City Council levels.

The body, has, however, requested for an exemption of historical buildings in the Red Star Campaign.

Malawi has several important buildings that form part of the country’s history and pride that can be preserved for tourist attraction and reference for the future generation.

In Blantyre, the Mandala building- the oldest European building in Malawi, St Michaels and All Angels Church- the first European church to be built in Malawi and the DC’s Office, which is the first administrative office in Malawi are some examples of historical buildings.

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