By John Chihana
Chitipa, January 27, Mana: Minister of Transport and Public Works Ralph Jooma says government will start construction of the 31-kilometre road from Chitipa Boma to Mbirima at the border with Tanzania after passing the 2020 – 2021 National Budget in July.
Jooma was speaking Friday during a meeting between cabinet ministers and the business community in Chitipa aimed at resolving issues surrounding Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) that prompted violent protests in the district.
The concerned citizens of Chitipa organised demonstrations on January 14 to force MRA to remove their officers from Ilomba Border Post at the border with Tanzania, citing poor condition of the road from the border to the district’s central business area.
In an interview after the meeting, the Minister said government realises the importance of the road to the border with Tanzania and was already working towards upgrading it from earth to tarmac.
“I travelled through the road today and I know that the people in Chitipa have a genuine cry for the upgrading of the road because it is in bad shape.
“Government will allocate K13 billion for upgrading the road to bitumen standard in the 2020 – 2021 budget,” Jooma said.
He said, in the interim, government has injected K150 million and put a contractor on sight to put culverts, drainages and gravel in some parts and further grade it in April after the rains.
He urged people of Chitipa to bear with government on the project saying construction of 1 kilometre tarmac road costs K500 million.
The Minister explained that constructing a one kilometre of tarmac road costs around K500 million so it will require not less than K13 billion to complete constructing the 31 kilometre road.
In a separate interview, a member of the business community Sydney Simwaka said they will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that government keeps its word.
“We are happy with the outcome of the meeting and we hope that everything that has been said will be implemented.
We will be monitoring the progress of the road to make sure that it will indeed be constructed after the next budget,” Simwaka said.
Traditional Authority (TA) Kameme said upgrading the road to bitumen standard will boost trade in the district both at large scale and small scale.
“Most people here use the road regularly as they rely on trade with neighbouring Tanzania,” Kameme said.
Ministers of Health, Jappie Mhango, Land Housing and Urban Development, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, Mark Botomani and Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Mungasulwa Mwambande attended the meeting.