There are a lot of questions that have come to Blantyre City Council (BCC) from the media and members of the public, especially residents of Blantyre City.
The questions are: Why is Blantyre City in total darkness at night? Where are the street lights? Why are the traffic lights always not functioning? Why is Blantyre City stinking?
In short, all these questions border on the provision of public services by the council. It is undisputed that these are genuine questions and concerns. But without necessarily being on the defensive as a council, the same questions could be put to the media and members of the public. The council has a mandate and responsibility to provide public services in the city, but in all fairness, people benefiting from these services also have a responsibility to protect and safeguard the facilities.
At one point, Blantyre City had street lights in most of the streets. Masauko Chipembere Highway had lights all the way. The M1 Road from Kandodo Corner Shop to Kameza round-about as well as the road from Clock Tower via Magalasi to Chileka Airport.
Then Kenyatta Road from Kamba to Limbe and all the way to Chigumula had street lights. The question is where are these street lights? Some of the lights were vandalised not only once, but several times after they were replaced.
It remains a puzzle what the vandals do with the poles. The council tried to use concrete poles, but this did not stop the criminals. Some of the unpatriotic residents even sent an anonymous letter warning the council that they will never allow a certain portion of the road to the airport to have lights because it is their hiding place at night.
The story is almost the same with traffic lights. The council has always endeavoured to have working traffic lights, but few days after fixing them, vandals would come to break them. In some cases the vandals have even removed the poles that hold these lights.
As already alluded to, there has been an outcry that Mudi and Nasolo streams produce a stench due to the sewage that leaks into the water. This is very true and there is no denial on the part of the council.
However, the question that has to be addressed is: What happened to the sewer system? As much as Blantyre City has an old sewer system which was meant for a smaller population, vandalism has worsened the situation.
For example, the handles holding the main sewer pipe that passes through Chiwembe Township were vandalised. Definitely, if one sold any item out of the metals that were stolen, the money fetched shouldn’t be more than K10 000. But for the council to replace it and put back this king size pipe, it needed not less than K18 million. That is the reality on the cost of vandalising.
One thing that is baffling is that the accusing finger always points at BCC forgetting that these vandals live within our communities. The residents buy these stolen materials thereby encouraging them to continue with this malpractice.
At this stage, there is a need to stop the blame game and join hands to arrest this problem. Residents should take responsibility of public facilities that the council erects in the city. If the council and the residents can work together, vandalism can be stopped. There is need to report to law enforcers any suspicious people in our communities. The council is losing a lot of revenue replacing these vandalised facilities instead of channelling the little available resources to new development initiatives.
The council is determined to continue providing services to residents despite these challenges. But together—the residents and the council—Blantyre City can be a better place to live and do business.
As a council, there is already a belief and conviction that its vision is slowly being realised of making Blantyre a city of choice in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region with a conducive environment where people shall take ownership, live, do business and prosper.
The Author is Blantyre City Council Public Relations Manager