Reviewed law to allow residents elect mayors
The Ministry of Local Government has disclosed that the reviewed Local Government Act which, among others, will allow city dwellers to vote for their mayor, is scheduled to be tabled in Parliament for approval in November this year.
Minister of Local Government Blessings Chinsinga said the review of the Act and the National Decentralisation Policy is at an advanced stage and that it would be submitted to the Ministry of Justice for further scrutiny.
“I would like to report that some of the radical changes that will be introduced in the revised Act include, allowing the electorate to be casting ballots for their preferred city mayor candidates.
“This is a complete departure from the current scenario where Ward Councillors do elect within themselves a mayor during council meetings,” Chinsinga said in his statement after meeting British High Commissioner to Malawi, Fiona Ritchie, over the weekend.
Ritchie wanted to know how the ministry was progressing in the implementation of a wide range of developments at local level.
The minister added that “the spirit within this review” is to ensure that city mayors are accountable to their people based on the promises that they would make during campaigns.
The review would also facilitate the introduction of municipal police responsible for enforcing councils’ by-laws and policies for sustained compliance.
“This means councils will have their own police, unlike the current status where councils do hire police from the Central Government, a move that remains costly when enforcing by-laws,” he said.
Governance commentator Victor Chipofya has described the move to allow city residents to vote for a preferred mayor as a “very welcome and progressive” and wondered why it has taken long for that path to be taken.
He said Malawi’s democracy is representative, requiring people to choose a person to represent them at a position like a city mayor which makes it easier for people to choose a person to develop the cities the way they want.
“Giving the power to the people is a brilliant idea because if we are able to directly vote for the president, Members of Parliament and councillors, we should also be able to directly vote for the city mayors because they play a vital role in development,” Chipofya said.
In the current setup, only councillors and lawmakers vote in mayoral elections.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.