After at least 12 months in office, councillors say government is frustrating local governance by failing to create space for them so that they ably do their work.
The local representatives say government has failed to provide them with tools and resources to enable them to perform their duties, arguing that Capital Hill only fears and favours Members of Parliament (MPs) thereby frustrating practical decentralisation.
However, government has said the local governance machinery is smoothly operating because it is supporting it.
Speaking Friday in Mzimba during a local governance debate organised by National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust, chairperson for M’mberwa District Council Dan Nkosi said there is too little that councillors have done during the past 12 months owing to government’s failure to support their work.
“Government is not considering us as councillors. In fact, it does not know that there are councillors out there. There are many things that point to the fact that government favours or fears MPs and has no business with councillors.
“For example, MPs were sworn in just two weeks after being elected but for councillors, it took about a month. Furthermore, MPs have been given millions of kwacha in loans but is failing to release just K1 million for us to buy motorcycles,” said Nkosi, attracting a standing ovation from fellow councillors who also took turns in blaming government “for not giving them resources”.
He said the transport problems in wards are affecting their operations as they fail to travel and attend to important issues.
“I walk distances close to 60 kilometres. How does one expect us to work properly? It is true councillors have not done much regarding their work but the blame should go to government. Let us be honest, government was not ready for councillors,” said Nkosi who is also councillor for Mzalangwe Ward in Mzimba Hora Constituency.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Mzuzu Diocese official Arnold Msimuko said councillors have shown potential that they can change things but lack support from government.
However, Mzuzu University political analyst Chrispin Mphande said, largely, the problem that is affecting development at local level was the conflict between the councillors and MPs whom he said are fighting for visibility.
Deputy Director of Local Government Services Douglas Mkweta defended government, saying it was doing a tremendous job to promote local governance.
“As a ministry we are doing a tremendous job in promoting good local governance. The local government system is engaging with the people in communities because of the presence of councillors who are engaging with the people. People’s views have been deliberated in councils and decisions have been made by councils based on those views. That means things are working.
“We have also development working tools for the councillors which they are using. …..In the current budget, government has allocated K6 billion for development activities in councils. On transport, yes it has delayed. But it should be noted that government is engaging the Malawi Local Government Association on the same,” said Mkweta.
According to Regional Civic Education Officer Vincent Kalawa, Nice organised the debate to provide a ready platform for public participation in deciding on matters that affect people’s lives, specifically to audit the performance of councils in the wake of councillors and provide evidence on which stakeholders can build their cases for various interventions in local governance.
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