Earning a living through potholes in Lilongwe

By Tione Andsen, MANA

A 35-year- old man, Aubrey Gama is thriving on his livelihood of repairing potholes that have developed in Area 49, Lilongwe as a way of countering his unemployment status.

He has been jobless for the past four years after he was sacked as a security guard in Area 47 Section 4 in Lilongwe for reporting to work late and due to harsh economic situations, he was forced to find a source of living within his locality to enable him to fend for his wife and three children.

Potmarked road in Lilongwe

The only option which caught his attention which was more appropriate to him was to venture into the business of filling potholes, an idea which was handy and easy to execute within his community.

And he gets lucky that some motorists appreciate the work he does on behalf of the authorities and give out generously but others don’t despite seeing him doing the maintenance works on the road.


The former security guard observed that the work he was doing was not easy to sustain because it depends on the mercy and response of the motorists.

“This was the only way, I thought I can be able to generate something for my huge responsibility of my family,” Gama explained.

“I am not earning much from the venture per day but I am able to have something for my family. If I had something to do I will stop doing this work,” he said.

Aubrey Gama at work

Councillor for Maria Ward in Area 49, Patrick Makumba admitted that some tarmac roads within his community are in bad state and they do need some maintenance works.

“I have personally presented the status of our roads to Lilongwe City Council for action but nothing has being done to this effect.”

Makumba added that two weeks ago, the City Council provided 600 litres of fuel for plant equipment to grade some dusty roads in Old Shire, Dubai, Chimoka but the work was not completed the fuel wasn’t enough.

The Capital City

He said motorists are faced with potholes problems due to lack of regular maintenance of the roads.

“We are even encountering a lot of problems particularly during rainy season. This tendency of leaving roads without being maintained was compromising the status of our tarmac roads and as a result they are turning to dusty roads,” said the Councillor.

Lilongwe City Council

Director of Engineering Services for Lilongwe City Council, Cleaverson Nyalo said the Council was aware of the prevailing roads situations in Areas 23, 12, 9, 3, 49, 15, where most roads have developed a lot of potholes.

He said some roads maintenance are the responsibility of the Council and others are for Roads Authority (RA) for maintenance.

What Aubrey Gama is doing is deemed illegal

Nyalo added that the Council has made 15 submissions for funding on the maintenance of the roads in the City.

The Director warned residents that it was illegal for someone to be maintaining public roads and at the same time demanding money from motorists.

“Those that will be found doing that should be reported for action. They are not authorized by anyone to generate cash by simply filling potholes in our city roads. 

“Residents need to guard against the malpractice,” he pointed out.

Country Director for Oxfam in Malawi, Langalireni Mihowa said the implementation of the Urban Governance Project seeks to promote dialogue for improved policy harmonization and strengthened institutional collaboration in Lilongwe City.

“Our interest was to contribute towards more inclusive, transparent and accountable democratic processes for urban governance in the country, through harmonization and institutionalization of policy and systems that reflect the needs of and are responsive to an active citizenry,” she said.


She said the project has supported Lilongwe City Council to develop model guidelines for City Centre Development, which is meant to promote policy harmonization and strengthen institutional collaboration in urban governance.

Mihowa added that the strengthened dialogue and engagement between the Lilongwe City Council and urban dwellers was aimed are enabled them to voice out their needs through town hall meetings.

“This is giving prospect to Lilongwe City Council to design interventions that respond appropriately to people’s needs and to better communicate in a way that has resonance for people on urban governance issues that affect their lives,” the Country Director explained.

She noted that strengthened peoples’ participation and leadership in urban governance that has developed a positive attitude within communities concerning working together with the City Council.

Governance Officer for Catholic Justice for Peace (CCJP) Project Mwai Sandram said Urban Governance aims at empowering residents to have a voice on issues affecting them.

He said residents need to have the responsibility of delivering poor serve delivery to the rightful authorities for action.

“It is clearly that residents are driving in bad roads but they are failing to voice out their problems to the authority. 

“This is due to the fact that they have not been empowered to demand better services from the Council and other service providers within,” Sandram observed.

He said the issue of road maintenance should be the responsibility of the Council to plan every year and budget for it rather than leaving it out to individual residents to do the work on their behalf.

Deputy Chief Executive for Tilitonse Foundation, Chandiwira Chisi said his organization has financially supported Oxfam and CCJP to implement the Urban Governance Project for seven months from July, 2019 to February, 2020.

He said the road maintenance should be looked seriously, saying these are some of the issues residents are refusing to pay city rates because they are not seeing the benefits.

“This should be a work up call for the departments within the Council to take up their responsibilities in order to satisfy the needs of the residents within their locality,” Chisi said.

The Urban Project, according to Chisi, should bring positive mindset change for both Council officials and residents in addressing the needs of the city.