In July, I attended a Public Affairs Committee (PAC) meeting in Zomba to brief journalists on the efforts being done to ensure that the Local Government (Amendment) Bill of 2015 passes into law.
I nearly shed a tear as PAC publicity secretary, Fr Peter Mulomole, lamented the passiveness of us Malawians when it comes to issues that affect us most.
The priest spoke with zeal, sending journalist into dead silence.
Once passed into law, the Bill, expected to be tabled in Parliament in November, will mean that Members of Parliament (MPs) stop w voting at council meetings, the Minister of Local Government will have no powers to appoint district commissioners and the inclusion of women and youth in the councils will be guaranteed.
The first two provisions are the stickiest issues that are delaying the passing of the amendments. MPs are resistance to this bill whose success in Parliament hinges on their vote.
Currently, MPs sit and vote at council meetings.
Malawi is among few countries on the continent where Members of Parliament have these powers and voting rights.
This arrangement is unconstitutional and it defeats the notion of separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature. Sections 7 and 8 of the Constitution state that MPs belong to the Legislature and Councillors to the Executive.
Therefore, it is incredible for the parliamentarians to authorise a budget for the Executive in the National Assembly and be the ones implementing that budget at the local level.
Section 146(2) gives that mandate to the local government authorities. For the legislature to do this is taking away the responsibility of the other arm of the government.
This is what our legislators do not seem to understand, yet they are the ones to pass these laws.
They argue that councillors lack the necessary skills to initiate big projects.
Show me 50 incompetent councillors and I will show you more incompetent MPs who are just passengers in that August house.
You cannot violate the Constitution simply because you think someone is incompetent. If the supreme law has not given you powers, no one has the power to derive them illegally.
This Bill seeks to bring transparency in the handling of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which is shrouded in controversy and secrecy. Some MPs use this fund as their pocket money.
But this is the dilemma we Malawians are in.
How then do we enact laws that benefit us when the laws are going to affect the very same people whose task is to enact them?
Imagine a Judge presiding on a case where his employer is refusing to give him a pay rise. Certainly, a third party would be the best option.
If this Bill is going to be turned down, Malawians are going to be the main losers for it is envisaged to benefit no other group but Malawians.
Let the lawmakers who will be against this Bill give Malawians valid justifications—if not greedy machinations.
This is the battle we, Malawians, have to win at all cost.
It is, therefore, the argument of this article that this Bill should been enacted as a Constitutional amendment to Section 146 giving councillors the responsibility of voting at council meetings.
Take these MPs out. They are abusing our trust and promoting their own interest at our expense.
A simple referendum, carried out even with one million people, will represent the wishes of Malawians than 193 greedy people who are playing the accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury in a matter that affects them.