Cities flood, vendors rule the streets again

(Judge Mbadwa is making his determination on the failure by Ministry of Local Government to rein in on sub-standard structures in the country’s cities)

Mbadwa: This is not the first time that this court is tackling an issue of infrastructural development in the country’s cities. There have been concerns that most structures in our cities are an eyesore and their development does not follow any set blueprint.

The flooding of the capital city for the umpteenth time shows that we are not learning.

Village structures are mushrooming everywhere, raising questions on why councils should still maintain the town planning and engineering departments when there appears to be no planning at all. Town roads are almost non-existent and the drainage system in the city is as chaotic as it gets.

At the watch of the city fathers, street vendors are no longer plying their trade in designated places such as markets. City streets, especially in Kabula, have become defacto dumping sites as vendors litter anywhere and compete with motorists for space.

Tired of the current state of affairs, citizens asked this court to summon the parent of the councils, the Ministry of Local Government, to explain why they are not reining in on city fathers. I don’t want to be speaking to myself; is the Minister of Local Government Benteke Hill, his principal secretary and directors present in this court?

Court Clerk: My Lord, they are all present.

Mbadwa: The citizens want an explanation why the entire hierarchy of the Ministry of Local Government is sitting cross-legged and not acting on the rot taking place in our cities.

Look at the city of Kabula, for instance, the citizens are asking why vendors have been left scot-free to litter our streets and highways against cities’ own by-laws. The vendors rush to complain to party regional governors whenever the council wants to chase them away from the streets. The council is actually a toothless bulldog that dances to political songs of governors.

Then we have central business district (CBD) which is still littered with warehouse-like structures that eat a lot of land instead of allowing developers erect skyscrapers or multi-storey structures? And talking about Limbe; it is a prototype of a nauseatingly mismatch of standards. New structures are deteriorating at the rate of the derelict ones surrounding them, yet they were approved by city engineers.

Lilongwe is even worse; most of the structures mushrooming in the CBD are of the hostel type (midadada).

Corruption has enabled developers to erect structures anywhere, including in river beds. Any wonder that floods are becoming a perennial thing in the city?

Where is the city going to get land to fulfil its metropolitan ambitions? Mzuzu is erecting more shacks than proper buildings while Zomba appears to glory being called a museum city with most of its colonial buildings that have never seen renovations.

Honourable minister and your team; what is your job? Conducting meaningless familiarisation tours or ensuring that standards are being adhered to?

Benteke Hill: My Lord, we have been taken by surprise by this summoning. We understand the magnitude of the challenges in councils. Can you give us two weeks to consult so that we furnish this court with proper answers?

Mbadwa: Request granted but this court will not accept any delay on the matter. In two weeks’ time we will gather here to hear from the minister and his team why they are not taking councils to task over sub-standard structures in the city. Court dismissed.

With Emmanuel Luciano

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