Remove vendors at busy trading centres first rather than reducing speed limit to 30k/h from 50k/h along the busy highways

Lizulu market deep inside Blantyre-Lilongwe M-1 Road

* For far too long, we as a country have allowed vendors to create trade centres along such busy highways

* Who care less whether a car is approaching but crisscross the road in attracting potential motorist customers

Analysis by Duncan Mlanjira

In a statement issued last week, Road Safety Foundation (ROSAF) pleaded with government that unless it reduces the 50k/h at busy trading centres along the busy highways to 30 km/hour as speed limit, the country would continue experiencing a rise in road traffic accidents which, it says, would in the long run affect its socio-economic progress.


That is true in the sense that for far too long, we as a country have allowed vendors to create trade centres along such busy highways, who care less whether a car is approaching but crisscross the road in attracting potential motorist customers.

Evening motorists themselves have become so lazy such that they prefer to buy vendors’ merchandise from the comfort of their cars, who attract mobs of vendors around their vehicles — thus narrowing the roads for other users.

ROSAF founder & executive director, Joel Jere contend that road accidents in the country are claiming productive lives of citizens, mostly lives of children and women — a trend, he said would compromise the country’s socio-economic development.

He emphasises that “these heart-wrenching accidents underscore the urgent need for speed limit enforcement to protect pedestrians” and he appeals to the government to honor the commitment it made at the United Nations High level meeting on July 1, 2022 and “immediately start implementation of the 30km/hour speed limit”.

He further said the surge in pedestrians and child fatalities are due to over-speeding of drivers along routes that have schools and market places adjacent to such busy highways.

ROSAF executive director, Joel Jere

Thus, ROSAF urges the government to direct the Ministry of Transport & Public Works to embark on replacement of the 50km/hour speed limit road signs with the new 30km/hour signs and further direct the Malawi Police Service to penalise drivers exceeding the new speed limit.

Jere continues to say the rise in fatalities are “stark reminder of the devastating consequences of inaction, reckless driving and of inadequate traffic calming facilities on our roads”.

“We, therefore, urge government to prioritize road safety and take concrete steps to save lives,” said Jere, whose Road Safety Foundation is a local non-profit organization established in 2016 to promote road safety education and safer transport system.

In an earlier interview with Maravi Express correspondent, Jamal Jamal, Minister of Transport & Public Works, Jacob Hara admitted that the rate of carnage on the county’s roads was a “grave concern to the country”.

And he too says “these accidents have and continue to claim skilled work force and children” and that the government is concerned to note that despite efforts to reverse the situation, road accidents continue to rise.

According to the 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) report, Malawi has the 9th highest incidences of traffic accidents in the world and this is simply because the authorities do not do the right things.

This is Lizulu marketplace as well, right on edge of M-1 Road

In the first place, the authorities shouldn’t have allowed congested trading centres along these highways — they are supposed to be located away from the road where motorists wanting to buy merchandise can pull over away from blocking other road users.

If the rate of carnage on the county’s roads was a “grave concern” as said by Minister Hara, the government should not blame it solely on motorists but other factors such as allowing people to disregard their own safety by jumping into the road when a car is approaching.

You try to hoot a people who is nonchalantly walking deep into the road, they respond with unsavory insults back at the motorist, saying “undigunde uwone, ukandilipira (hit me if you want, you are going to hugely compensate me)”. How are you going to enjoy the compensation money if you would end up gravely injured or even dead — for goodness sake!


Most of these vendors and pedestrians along the rural road routes completely do not practice road use safety. You find about two or three walking abreast each other and all of them not wanting to dirtier their feet — or shoes if they have them — by insisting to tread on the tarmac.

And they walk on their left hand side of the road giving their backs to oncoming cars as opposed to what my generation and those ahead of me were taught in primary school as Civics subject — that was examinable then.

By the time a motorist reaches them, one would stumble inside the road and at that moment, there is an oncoming truck and you have to apply emergency brakes to avoid hitting the careless pedestrians — and this is not a stretch where one has to observe a 50km/h speed limit, by the way.

A majority of accidents that have claimed lives are because of the dilapidated state of the major highways, riddled with potholes — or rather drum holes. Motorists have been involved in serious head-on collision for simply trying to avoid a huge drum hole and they both ended heading same direction to inevitably hit each other.

Our roads are not wide enough and where there is congestion, there is totally no demarcation to shepherd pedestrians from walking on the tarmac. Some even sit down with their backs to road, simply chatting while chewing sugarcanes and throwing the piths onto the road.

Then there un-shepherded livestocks that suddenly appears on the middle of the road from some blind sides at these trading centres. These these too have distracted motorists — no matter how slow they may have been.

Malawians have become vandals by nature and the victims become the motorists. Signposts — especially those indicating speed limits — are vandalised to be made into some cooking pots for sale, yet the traffic police would strategically position themselves with their cameras fully aware that there are no such road signs.

Signposts are almost non-existent

The idea is not to ensure road safety on the part of the traffic police but to frisk the unsuspecting motorists with over speeding fines — knowing fully well that speed limit signs were removed by evil minds of some of our fellow citizens.

I once tried to reason with the traffic police of a non-existent speed limit sign after being detected that I was at 55km/h on a 50km/h stretch, and they challenged me that I ought to know that’s the limit for a trading centre. What if I had been a foreigner, would they have left me to proceed without a fine?

ROSAF’s Joel Jere did not address the conduct of the police but on motorists. He should try and engage them on where to position themselves if their greatest concern is to enforce road safety.

What the traffic police do it locate themselves — and hidden from view — far from the designated stretch of the speed limit and a motorist may have observed the limit as they passed through the congested part of the stretch.

As one increases speed after slowly negotiating the busy bodies of vendors, that’s when they stop you for overspeeding. But does that assist in road safety? I believe NO! They should be in the thick of the congestion of the vendors to stop motorists from speeding and not let them speed and catch them — that’s safety.


Yes, there are many reckless drivers on our roads — and they are everywhere in the world. Most Malawians have cars with very powerful engines such that 50km/h seems like one is crawling. These are the most caught overspeeding.

But wait a minute, how many of the road safety experts have ever criticised how fast Cabinet Ministers and government officials are driven on the same roads and on the same speed limit stretches? They are never stopped once the reading on their cameras shows it’s a government vehicle. Do these drivers have the licence to overspeed?

The Blantyre-Zomba Road is one good example of some sanity in as far as road signs is concerned such that maximum speed limit is indicated at 100km/h and as one approaches trading centres, a sign is visible on the side of the road to reduce to 80km/h before another further on to 60km/h.

As one passes the trading centres, a speed limit sign advises the motorist that they can increase to 80km/h and further on another indicates the maximum 100km/h.

This stretch is very wide and demarcated by a yellow line throughout for bicycle, pedestrians and as ample spaces to allow a motorist to give way for someone needing to overtake — that’s what is needed in all these highways.

Zomba Road is a wide enough, for the moment

By the way, the market places in the middle of a busy highway are existing not targeting at the local customers of these trading centres, but lazy motorists who don’t want to park their car away from the road and patronize vendors plying a distance away from the edge of the road.

The fear is safety of their cars — thus they just buy from the car windows and by the time they realize they had been swindled, they have arrive back home in the cities.

There is a nice market place somewhere between Dedza and Ntcheu which is some 50m away from the road side such that one comfortably drive over to the vendors, mostly very respectful ladies with good customer care.

The decent stopover away from road

They don’t mob the cars but allow you to choose what you want along the line of agricultural merchandise on sale. I once stopped by, picked several goodies and I was paying them and being given change.

As I was about to open my driver’s door to drive off after packing my goodies in the boot, a senior lady citizen called out to me: “mwana wanga, mwandiiwala (son, you’ve forgotten to pay me)” and true I hadn’t paid her.

She didn’t rise up in panic from where she was sitting when she called out to me, but just gently endearing me. That’s the beauty of the elderly village folks. Try them, not the Lizulu and Tsangano youths, who practise some pick-pocketing.

The final analysis, ROSAF, let’s do the right things first before we just condemn motorists as all contributing towards the road carnage — the whole system of our governance should be overhauled.