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MP, councillors united for a purpose

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Beatrice Mbewe was filled with ecstasy and a feeling of dread in equal measure after she won the Mmaganga-Kuluunda Ward in Salima Central Constituency in the 2014 Tripartite Election.

The 46-year-old had won the ward on a United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket, but the constituency went to a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Member of Parliament.

“While I was happy I had won, I felt sad that the parliamentary seat went to Felix Jumbe of MCP; I feared we would have an acrimonious relationship,” Mbewe told this writer.

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But her fears were allayed after Jumbe convened a meeting at which he expressed his desire to work with his councillors regardless of their political affiliation.

Following Jumbe commitment, the constituency has managed to resurrect several projects that had stalled in the constituency’s two wards to the delight of everyone.

The cooperation between Jumbe and his councillors is rare, given that in many parts of the country, MPs and councillors are at loggerheads.

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The conflict stems from the fact that most MPs think councillors eye their positions and not surprisingly, they work in isolation to the detriment of development efforts.

Mbewe said although Salima Central was within the township, it had few successes one could point at in terms of development.

“The area has very few things one can admire. It is a business area, but before the Honourable Jumbe took over as MP, things were a mess. Among others, the area had poor infrastructure, especially schools after some classroom blocks collapsed.

And most community schools had no electricity,” she said.

Mbewe commended Jumbe for the initiatives he had taken to develop the constituency, such as promoting education by sponsoring needy students in all community day secondary schools (CDSS) and reopening junior schools that had been closed for lack of resources to run them.

According to Mbewe, most roads in the area have been rehabilitated, again thanks to Jumbe’s guidance.

One such road, which runs from Papala to Kachulu headquarters and passes through Kafuwu, has been reconstructed.

“School blocks at Chigolo, Kachulu, Ngolowindo and Sengabay have also been rehabilitated,” Mbewe said.

Commenting on the same, councillor for Kalonga Ward, Janet Chipeni (MCP), said Salima was developing rapidly and predicted the district would be transformed in two years’ time.

Chipeni attributed the district’s development to the prevailing unity that has kept people together despite their political differences.

“In his first meeting with us, councillors, he [Jumbe] mentioned that the responsibility of choosing development work lies with the community and not us councillors. It was an eye-opener because most of us thought the other way round,” she said.

“Honourable Jumbe doesn’t care which political party one is affiliated to. He treats us equally and this is what has made us achieve our goals within a short period of time because we are able to allocate resources accordingly without favouring some areas.”

Chipeni said because they are united, they plan together with communities to implement projects in a transparent manner.

She said through Jumbe’s leadership, they had managed to resuscitate the construction of Ntchentche Primary School that previously had only one block with a rough floor.

As a further illustration of his guidance, the people of Namanda area started the construction of a school block but the project was abandoned due to lack of resources.

When Jumbe became MP, however, he set in motion some initiatives that led to the completion of the school block, which has now been roofed by money from the Local Development Fund (LDF).

The prevailing unity among people in the constituency has also seen Chilumba CDSS receiving solar lights to help students study at night.

Chipeni said Salima community ground now has a brick wall fence after it was prioritised for renovation through the LDF. Again this happened because of the constituents’ unity.

“Efforts to renovate the community ground have been a success. The ground is now operational and we have several sponsored activities taking place there,” Chipeni said.

Chipeni, however, said there were some areas that needed the government’s attention, citing an old building that used to be a health centre which is now being rented out.

She suggested that the building should be renovated so that it could be used as a health centre again to ease congestion at the district hospital.

The health centre stopped functioning without a good reason and the building was rented out.

“It is a sad development to see that the health centre was closed for no reason and the people who did that went ahead to rent it out to an organisation,” Chipeni said.

“We want the health centre to be reopened so that people can access health services instead of queuing at the district hospital.”

The two councillors hailed Jumbe for his desire to work with his constituents regardless of their political affiliation to develop the constituency.

Jumbe said it had been exciting to work with councillors. He said it was simply a question of understanding his role and theirs and how to put their efforts together.

“All is fine and I should say it has been exciting to work with councillors in my constituency by simply understanding our roles,” an unassuming Jumbe told Mana.

He added: “The Constituency Development Fund [CDF], which often is the bone of contention, is discussed with everyone, including area development committee chairs and councillors.”

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