Chiefs withhold census registers


The growing animosity between government and deposed urban chiefs has made the latter to withhold census registers, a move that threatens to derail the implementation of the National Identity Cards project in the urban areas.

A letter from Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, signed by Secretary for Local Government, Lawrence Makonokaya, ordered all chiefs who are under the jurisdiction of city councils to stand down with immediate effect.

The order also stated that government has stopped paying honoraria to all the affected chiefs.


But a Malawi News investigation has shown that some chiefs in the four cities were refusing to hand over registers which contain details of people from their areas, as demanded by the ministry.

Government, through former Minister of Home Affairs, Paul Chibingu, made a commitment that Malawians would have national identity cards by the end of 2015.

T/A Machinjiri of Blantyre said the decision to remove chiefs in urban areas should have waited for thorough consultations.


“The affected chiefs are angry with the manner in which government has handled this issue. In fact, it is village headmen that keep the registers not the TAs. Unfortunately, we cannot do anything about this. We are surprised that who is going to do the death and birth registration in the villages?” he said.

Ministry officials maintain that they are only enforcing the current Local Government Act which stipulates that ‘no paramount chief, senior chief or sub chief shall exercise jurisdiction over an area within a city, municipality or town.’

However, according to T/A Chikowi of Zomba, the decision to bar chiefs has created more problems.

“All chiefs under my jurisdiction have stopped working. They are refusing to surrender the registers. Now even simple cases that were being handled by chiefs are being referred either to police or the district commissioner’s office,” she said.

Chikowi regretted for pressing the declaration that Zomba should be declared a city.

“Probably we were wrong because it was us chiefs who asked former president, late Bingu wa Mutharika, to give Zomba a city status. Now we are being asked to abdicate,” complained Chikowi.

The same reports are being received from Lilongwe and Mzuzu where the traditional leaders are protesting against the government’s decision to strip them of their authority.

Inkosana Kangawa of Mzuzu, in the area of Inkosi Kampingo Sibande, said chiefs in Mzuzu were equally not amused with the decision.

“As far as we are concerned we cannot just be overthrown like that. We do not subscribe to this law hence our resolve not to hand over the registers. We have always been custodians of the land. But government wants us to be swallowed by strangers. We cannot accept that,” he said.

But local government minister, Trasizio Gowelo, dismissed the assertions that things were getting out of hand following the implementation of the Act. He said no such reports have reached his ministry.

“Why should they keep the registers, for what? It is not me as a minister who is pushing this as some people are thinking.

“My ministry is just implementing what the law stipulates. It is not a new law only that the level of enforcement has been raised. It is unfortunate that some chiefs have decided to take this as a personal fight. They should blame their TAs for not preparing them for this change,” he said.

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