By Cosmas Chimaliro – Mana.
Travel in Mzuzu City used to be a problem as roads in the townships were of poor shape characterized by bumps and potholes.
A Bicycle Taxi business Operator in Area 1B, Thoko Tebulo bemoaned that the conditions of the roads in the City’s locations which were earthen and muddy during rainy season rendering travel difficult.
‘’Riding a bicycle was quite hectic since the roads were bumpy and had numerous potholes throughout the stretches, bringing discomfort to both the operator and the passenger. This situation made the business venture retrogressive,
‘’As a result of this, unemployed young people desisted from participating in it because it proved to be non-profit making,’’ he said
Tebulo said due to the poor road conditions it too long to reach destinations accompanied by exhaustion and increased tear and wear.
He said this exacerbated their problems of realizing little money each day.
Tebulo singled out that fatigue forced them to carry few passengers thereby squeezing the profit smaller and smaller.
‘’We used to carry few customers each day and the money we brought home was far from enough to meet our basic needs. Many dropped out of the business and poverty perpetuated,’’ he complained.
Today, Tebulo has a different story to tell after government’s intervention which led to construction of tarmac roads in most locations of the City.
“’With the presence of tarmac roads travel has been simplified very much. The frequency of carrying customers has tripled. We travel quite fast due to good conditions of the roads meaning we go home with sizeable amount of money adequate to feed our families,” he explained.
Another taxi driver, Adamson Banda said the advent of tarmac roads boomed the business saying the the number of taxis in Mzuzu has more than doubled.
‘’Taxis are now many, meeting the demand of newly populous City. Though taxis are numerous, we are able to make good money by the end of the day and have our cars in good condition.
‘’We do meet the target of money set by our employers and we are getting better salaries,’’ he said.
Banda said due to Covid-19 pandemic the number of passengers they carry has reduced affecting the amount of money realized each day.
‘’We make relatively less money this time around as a result of outbreak of Coronavirus. We are trying to maintain reasonable distance between passengers to avoid transmission of the virus,’’ he added.
A business woman who sells vegetables, Maurine Munthali noted that her business has improved because of good road conditions.
She said when her stock lasts; she takes no time to get to her garden at Sonda Location about 15 kilometres from Mzuzu Main Market to get some more vegetables for her customers.
‘’Currently, I do not disappoint my customers as there is steady availability of vegetables. When I run out of stock, I promptly travel back home to collect the vegetables because now taxis are everywhere,’’ Munthali pointed out.
She said since her capital was increasing steadily she plans to venture into a more lucrative enterprise such as poultry farming as the demand for chicken and eggs was high.
A resident of Zolozolo Township who sells brooms on his bicycle, Martin Moyo added that he finds it easy to reach out to his customers with his products since mobility has been eased.
‘’Within a few hours, I sell my products to many people in my location as well as other places which was not the case when the roads were earthen. I was taking more time to sell my products,’’ he claimed.
Moyo said since his customer base has increased drastically he is able to realize sufficient money thereby improving his family welfare.
A House Wife, resident at Kaviwale, Tereza Mbale said as a result of the good condition of roads, prices of goods and services at residential markets are affordable.
‘’Since goods and services are at our disposal at our local markets and that competition amongst sellers is higher, prices of several goods have gone down,” she stated.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) for Mzuzu City Council, McDonald Gondwe said the roads were tar marked under the programme’’ City Roads Upgrading programme in 2015-16, 2020.
He said a total of 12 kilometre stretch of the road was constructed in the City’s townships to ease mobility.
“’This comprised connecting Mzuzu Airport, Chiputula and Chasefu Townships of 3.2 kilometres stretch, Luwinga- Nkhorongo Road 3.5 kilometres length, Chibanja-Sungawana half a kilometre and Bishop-Mchengautuwa road which is 2.5 kilometres.
“In all these roads, drains were constructed, street lights are available and there is also basement for pedestrians. This has helped to make the roads strong and safe to people walking on foot,’’ Gondwe said.
He said the first phase was allocated K 1.4 billion but the disbursement was in bits.
The PRO said in the current financial year, the Council has been allocated K 500 million to proceed with upgrading of the roads in the City.
‘’The Council will use the money to kick start by-pass roads which include Mzuzu Government Sec School- Chimaliro- Mzuzu Technical College to Mzuzu Coffee in Luwinga with a stretch of 10 kilometres,” Gondwe said.
He added that a bridge between Mzuzu Airport and Chiputula would be upgraded to two lanes as currently it was a single lane, bringing about frequent traffic jam.
The PRO said the money allocated to the second phase was inadequate to complete all the remaining roads.