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Tax compliant, service neglected: The tale of Malawians at the border

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FOR PRUDENT USE OF RESOURCES— Gotani Hara

Malawian to the marrow, Village Head (VH) Loti Chisambi does not remember the last time he accessed public health services in Malawi.

“We pay taxes in Malawi but depend on Zambia for public healthcare service delivery,” he says.

And he is not alone in that predicament.

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People of Mlumuzana Kapopo Mhlanga, Paramount Chief M’mbelwa, in Mzimba District have been at the receiving end of poor service delivery all these years that they have almost resigned to fate.

These people, who are in Mzimba Southwest Constituency, have been denied development despite producing highly respected politicians such as former vice president Khumbo Kachali.

“One would think that staying along the boundary of Zambia and Malawi is a curse. The Malawi Government, which is supposed to be our parent and to which our allegiance is, has completely forgotten this area,” said a visibly frustrated Chisambi.

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Recently, villagers agreed to mobilise themselves and confront public officials in the hope that, finally, policymakers would come back to their senses and remember that these people deserve a piece of the development cake, too.

“My subjects are dismayed that, while duty-bearers have been very religious and impartial in supplying them with ballot boxes and papers during elections, they have failed to ensure equal distribution of development resources,” VH Chisambi said.

Kapopo Ward Councillor Anthony Dewe concurred with him.

“People are crying for development and ever have been,” he said. Dewe said all people of Malawi deserved a piece of the development cake.

The United Nations (UN) defines the right to development as an inalienable human right. This entails having access to economic, social, cultural and political development services.

The human right to development, according to the UN, also implies the full realisation of the right of people to self-determination, which includes, subject to the relevant provisions of both International Covenants on Human Rights, the exercise of their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources.

In Malawi, the right to development has been extensively tackled in Section 30 the Republican Constitution.

The section emphasises that all persons have a right to development and, therefore, to the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural and political development, with women, children and persons with disability being given special consideration in the application of this right.

It further says that the State shall take all necessary measures for the realisation of the right to development.

For those in Mzimba Southwest Constituency, however, the attainment of these remains a far-fetched dream.

The situation has prompted other stakeholders, notably Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), to come in with interventions. One such intervention is training for councillors and members of Parliament (MPs).

Speaking during a two-day training, CCJP National Governance Programmes Coordinator, George Chiusiwa, faulted officials at M’mbelwa District Council for not involving service users in Public Finance Management (PFM) activities and activities’ implementation.

The service providers were trained in governance issues under the Voices and Actions for Accountabilities in Malawi (Vaam) Project.

Vaam is a three-year project being financed by Hivos and is being implemented in Blantyre, Dowa, Mangochi, Ntcheu, Mzimba, Mzuzu and Zomba.

Chiusiwa emphasised that PFM is the backbone of effective and efficient public service delivery.

In Malawi, the PFM Act of 2003 aims to foster and enhance effective and responsible economic and financial management by the government.

“PFM encompasses mechanisms through which public resources are collected, allocated, spent and accounted for. As such, PFM processes comprise the whole budget cycle, public procurement, audit practices and revenue collection,” he said.

Failure to follow through PFM principles can only spell trouble, as is happeneing in Mzimba, where there is finger-pointing in relation to the use, or misuse, of K130 million meant for Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

The development has riled MPs.

Mzimba West MP Billy Kaunda said his constituency was the most affected as its portion of K27 million could not be traced in the council’s account.

His Mzimba North counterpart, Catherine Gotani Hara, who is also Speaker of Parliament, accused council officials of playing games with people’s money. New District Commissioner for M’mbelwa District Council, Rodney Simwaka, pleaded with MPs and councillors to be patient.

“The money will be refunded through the sale of plots and revenues generated from markets,” he said.

He further called on people to wait for the outcome of a yet-to-be released audit report, which could pinpoint those who had a hand in misappropriating funds.

Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V said he could have transferred all council officials except the new DC if he had absolute powers.

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