President Peter Mutharika has revived the ‘Operation Red Star’ campaign introduced in the mid-1990s to demolish substandard and archaic buildings in the country’s major cities and towns.
Briefing journalists at the Old Town Hall in Blantyre after a tour of Limbe central business district (CBD) yesterday, Mutharika said it is sad that after 50 years of independence, some of the buildings in the country’s major cities and towns are dilapidated.
During the tour, the President inspected dilapidated buildings and Malawi Police Service (MPS) residential houses in Limbe.
Said Mutharika: “Some of the people trading in the buildings will agree that the buildings need rehabilitation. It is their duty to make sure they are operating in good structures as per city requirement as this will not only beautify the cities and towns, but it will also help attract investors.”
He hoped all concerned parties will join hands with the city and town councils to make sure the campaign is effective and bears good fruits.
Besides not getting a fresh coat of paint, most of the houses do not have working sewerage disposal systems, forcing officers to dig pit latrines in the heart of town. Their broken sewer tanks create a foul smell around the area.
Several occupants have also made illegal extensions using timber planks to create extra bed space for their families.
Commenting on the police houses, Mutharika said it is sad that the houses, despite being very small, are also in appalling conditions and they have never been rehabilitated since they were built.
“The conditions of the houses are very depressing; the sitting room is not even fit to be called one. Government will try to arrange with institutional housing establishments to make sure the houses are improved, and this will not only apply to police houses, but it will also cater for prisons services and the Army,” he said.
He also assured the country’s citizenry of the campaign’s success, saying it will never stop until all the country’s cities and towns become attractive. The President, however, fell short of outlining a strategy for implementing the initiative given that it has failed in the past.
Apart from the police houses, some of the buildings the President inspected included a structure housing several shops owned by Malawians of Asian descent opposite Limbe Mosque.
The situation was tense in Limbe as, while some shop owners continued with their usual business, others closed down their shops for fear that the President might have a sneak peek of the inside of their shops as he was literally entering some of the structures inspected.
The red mark operation was first introduced by the country’s founding president the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda when he issued a directive to demolish structures that could not conform to Malawi cities’ CBDs standards.
The campaign, however, died a natural death soon after Bakili Muluzi formed the first multiparty administration in 1994, and his successor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, spoke about reviving the campaign, but nothing was done on the ground.