Retired politician, Gwanda Chakuamba, spoke his mind on the Nsanje Inland Port on Sunday, saying the much touted initiative will "really, never materialise", adding that instead of balges and ships, it is, "actually, bicycles" that will be fetching cargo on the Shire-Zambezi Waterway.
Chakuamba was speaking Sunday at Chitawira Filling Station. The former Malawi Congress Party president and Agriculture Minister was responding to passers-by who wanted to hear his side of the story on the much-touted Water way, expected to reduce transport costs by over 60 per cent.
President Bingu wa Mutharika launched the port a couple of weeks ago. The ceremony, attended by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart Lupiah Banda, was marred by the absence of the Mozambican Head of State and Government, a key ally in the ambitious initiative.
Mutharika has put the Nsanje Inland Port at the top of government agenda, though the initiatives faces a number of challenges, among them the absence of a feasibility study.
Chakuamba is on record to have quashed the idea of a viable water way to the Indian Ocean port of Chinde via Shire-Zambezi rivers.
On Sunday, he was at his usual best bashing the idea.
"The idea of a Nsanje-Inland Port is a non-starter, as I said before. Only bicycles will 'sail' through that patch of water. I tell you, that project will never work. If anything, the Mozambican government would not have detained the balge had it been that it was a bicycle. Only bicycles will turn the project into reality," said Chakuamba, as people laughed.
Chakuamba told the people to cut "my middle finger" if that project ever works.
"It will never work; it is a non-starter."
His sentiments come at a time the Mozambican government is adamant on the project. It maintains that a lot of ground work, in terms of treaties and feasibility studies, needs to be done before the Mozambican government can commit itself to the initiative; meaning, even if the feasibility study gives the green light, Mozambique will continue to play it tough.
Mozambican officials have warned Malawian officials to tread carefully on matters of using the territory of another sovereign state, saying permission needs to be sought before any such use.
Malawi and Mozambique relations are on a decline, in part because of the Nsanje Inland Port issue and the issue of fuel scarcity in Malawi. The country's officials are riled that Malawi blames Mozambique for every fuel crisis, when, according to the Portuguese speaking officials, the problem has always been with Malawi.
Malawi currently holds the African Union chairpersonship.