Friday offered our first, and most certainly not last, setback with regards to construcion. As I'm sure is the case in many African countries, Malawi has municipal government alongside a more traditional system of chiefs. While we have the legal right to build a production facility on the plot of land we own near Lunzu, our contacts here in Blantyre advise that we also receive permission from the Traditional Authority (TA). On Friday we went to meet with the TA along with Lynda (production manager at current factory) and our supply shed/fence contractor Mr. Luphale. We were told to wait in the car for fear that our white skin would result in the TA asking for more money from us. Unlike most permits and licenses which have a set fee, receiving the blessing of the TA requires a negotiable sum of money. We've heard that we may be asked to pay between K6,000 and K15,000 (which is roughly $16.50 - $41.50) when all is said and done.
Apparently the TA had some concerns about our factory, like pollution and location compared to other factories nearby. Of course chiponde production doesn't produce much pollution, but you can't argue with the TA. The TA asked that we stop any further construction until he meets with the District Council this coming week to sort the matter. We've been told that by Friday at the latest we should get the go ahead. Of course this being Malawi, we aren't getting our hopes up.
After our meeting we returned to the building site to inform the 50+ builders and casual laborers currently working for us of the news. They were understandably dismayed at the prospect of a week without work but we made sure to pay them for the weeks worth of work.
While we certainly hope the delay won't last too long, the hold allows us to catch our breath a bit. We still have plenty of other things we can work on - finalizing the building layout, figuring out transport and security of our newly purchased concrete mixer and vibrator, making additional connections, etc.
Enjoy the photos! Soon we'll try to post more than just building site pics.