Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Infrastructural Development: The Ugly Face of Vandalism in Malawi

“There minds are not occupied by any strong feeling. Of course, they retain the human form but retain none of its character,” says, Evang Linley Mbeta, Mbayani Clinic chairperson.

Her mind, like that of Member of Parliament Felix Njawala, has been troubled by the rate of vandalism at Mbayani Maternity and Clinic, a brain child of former Parliamentarian Jan Jaap Sonke, who convinced the European Union and Foundation Kabula in The Netherlands to come to the rescue of Mbayani people by constructing a health centre.

Mbeta says what troubles her most is the fact that no one among the vandals gets troubled with an uneasy consciousness of their folly.

“Our hospital project would have been finished by now, but vandals descended on the facility, going away with ceiling boards, switches, sockets, among others. This has derailed development in the constituency,” Mbeta says.

Mbeta says, for their anti-development acts, the vandals are inconsiderate enough to objects, not of pity or horror, but of ridicule. She says it is difficult to understand this form of unrequisited love.

So grave is the problem of vandalism that Mbeta and other committee members have engaged members of the neighbourhood watch and guards in a bid to safeguard the facility and ensure that the right of people to health services is not compromised.

Lucy Mapande, one of the community members, says the acts of vandalism could deter would-be well-wishers and discourage further development works in the area.

“Under normal circumstances, I expected us, the people of Mbayani and surrounding areas, to be happy with the construction of a health facility. It is, therefore, a shame that some irrational people have vandalised some of the things. If it is freedom, I don’t know what it is because freedom consists of being ruled by reason and in living for the goal of mankind,” Mapande says.

Mapande says it was high time community members became involved in the provision of security for the facility.

The good news is that even group village headman Mbayani is aware of the vandalism situation, and has been imploring subjects to guard the facility as if their life depended on it.

“The truth, of course, is that the lives of my subjects depends on the health facility. Remember, a health facility is there to give comfort to those who, without specialized medical help, would simply die and be buried. Our life depends on the facility and we will do everything possible to safeguard it,” Mbayani says.

Parliamentarian Felix Njawala also says he is aware of the problem, saying, however, that mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that no cases of vandalism occur again.

“It is, in deed, true that we have suffered from cases of vandalism, with property worth K3 million vandalised to date. So far, we have spent K1 million replacing stolen items that include ceiling boards, switches, sockets, and the cost of items we are yet to replace could well exceed K2 million. So, in total, we have really lost about K3 million worth of property to vandalism,” Njawala says.

Njawala slams those behind the acts, saying their actions were putting the lives of pregnant women in jeopardy.

He says vandalism is the main reason behind the opening of the Out-Patients Department (OPD) at Mbayani Maternity and Clinic. He says, on one hand, vandalism has delayed the project since committee members spend time and resources replacing damaged property while, on the other hand, it has led to the pre-mature opening of the OPD due to fears that further delays could offer the vandals room to wreck more havoc.

“The sad thing is that Mbayani is a location of low-income earners, and, for a long time, women have had challenges travelling to the nearest health centres of Chilomoni and Ndirande. These women travel five or more kilometres on foot and, in some cases, some women deliver on their way to the hospital,” Njawala says.

He says, in some cases, patients from the area are turned back at Ndirande Health Centre and Chilomoni Health, necessitating the need for their own health facility.

Njawala says it is imperative for people to realise that every community without laws, and every facility maintained by nothing better than chance, must inevitably fall into the pit of under-development, describing vandalism as a sign of a society that fails to guard its own interests.

“But we will overcome this. We have already started safeguarding the property. We are serious about reducing the distance to the nearest health centre in this area but, of course, community members have to play their rightful role by realising that they own the property,” Njawala says.

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