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Councillors want MPs out of councils

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Ward councillors have appealed to President Peter Mutharika to ensure that Members of Parliament (MPs) cease to have voting rights during council meetings.

The councillors made the demands in Lilongwe Tuesday when Mutharika had a meeting with Malawi Local Government Association (Malga).

Malga president, Samson Chaziya, stressed the need for government to support the idea of stopping the MPs from flexing their political muscle at the local level.

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“Our request is that in line with constitutional provisions, government should make a bold decision to remove the MPs from council membership so that they remain with their parliamentary representation and their oversight role over all public services. You may wish to note Your Excellency, Sir, that it is only in Malawi where MPs sit in local councils. Zambia, from where we copied this practice, has since reviewed their legal framework and removed MPs from being members of the council,” Chaziya said.

In his remarks Mutharika said it is his government’s wish to move towards full decentralization. He, however, urged the councillors to assist in preventing abuse of funds in the councils.

“We are getting increasing reports of lack of accountability in councils. There are increasing levels of abuse of resources. Yes, theft and corruption in councils. And I would like to say, this needs to be stopped as soon as possible, because this discourages the central government and development partners alike from giving you more resources and responsibilities,” Mutharika said.

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In an interview after meeting Malga officials in camera, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, said the issue of stopping MPs from voting in councils remains a contentious one.

“It’s a sticky issue we are pursuing. A draft amended Local Government Act was taken to parliamentary committees on legal affairs and local governance. But hearing MPs talk, you would see clearly that they are not in favour of the idea of having their voting powers in councils taken away from them. However, we are still consulting. It’s a sticky, tricky issue but we believe at the end of the day we are going to make it,” Nankhumwa said.

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