With nine months left before the deadline, Malawi is yet to commence reconstruction works for the railway line from Bangula to Marka in Nsanje District.
The project—which will once again connect Malawi to the Port of Beira— is expected to cost government about K70 billion.
The rail rehabilitation follows discussions in October last year, between President Lazarus Chakwera and his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi.
The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding in which they have set March 2022 as the deadline to have the two countries reconnected by railway line.
Mozambique has already done almost half of its 26 kilometre stretch from Mutarara to Marka in Nsanje, while Malawi is yet to begin an inch on the 72 kilometer (km) stretch to Bangula.
Asked to explain the reason for the delays during the State-house brief at Kamuzu Palace recently, Presidential Press secretary Brian Banda said the absence of the Minister of Transport is one of the reasons that has delayed the project commencement.
He explained: “Things have delayed a bit with the absence of the minister in the portfolio of Transport and Public Works but as soon as the minister is hired you will see a lot of action… I can assure you that this project will be done, President Chakwera is very committed in making sure that this project is done with speed.”
However, a top government official close to the project said the delay has come about due to some procurement “politics” on who should do the job as bid evaluation was done and completed by November last year.
He also said a No Objection was also granted by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).
Said the official: “The vetting of the contract has taken long. It is not matching with the speed of the project. We needed to start by now because it will be difficult to do the work during rainy season.
“When the tender was floated there was about K19 billion from concessions fees [paid by Cear and Vale Logistics] and Malawi Government committed to fund the deficit. But then vetting which can take a week has taken months.”
Director of Railway Services in the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, who is also acting chief executive officer for Malawi Railways 1994—a government entity in charge of the railway infrastructure in the country— Geoffrey Magwede in a telephone interview said the contract is under vetting process by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, as well as the Government Contracting Unit.
However, without stating who the contractor is, he attributed the delay to the Covid-19 pandemic but said all is on course.
“Evaluation was done by November – December, but you will appreciate that between January to March we had experienced a serious wave of Covid-19 and that affected progress.
“But we are now in the process of having our contract vetted before we engage the contractor and these are processes we must follow,” said Magwede.
He said due to funding issues, they have divided the rehabilitation exercise into two parts; the first one will cover the 26km-stretch from Marka to Nsanje Boma, and then next one is 46km that goes up to Bangula.
He said later on the plan is to have an improved line all the way to Limbe.