Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Blessings Chinsinga has unveiled plans to make the country’s cities smart, sustainable and livable.
He said this in an interview yesterday. He said the ambitious plans follow concerns Malawians have been raising on the current status of cities which have been filled with street vendors, uncollected garbage and lack of other basic amenities.
The minister said the move will ensure that broken systems that led to the current mess are fixed for Malawians to have vibrant, progressive and dynamic cities.
Said Chinsinga: “Our cities have degenerated to the extent that we are ashamed to be associated with them. The situation is, however, not beyond redemption. As a ministry, we stand ready, with a well-articulated vision, on how we can turnaround the fortunes of cities.”
The move comes at a time when a February 2022 report by the Parliamentary Committee on Local Authority and Rural Development exposed councils’ lack of necessary equipment, weak enforcement laws and political interference as a hindrance to some challenges facing councils, in turn depriving citizens better services.
The report, adopted by Parliament, further observed that councils do not have appropriate waste management and disposal procedures; hence, they continue to practice open waste dumping due to absence of landfill machinery.
But Chinsinga yesterday said improving the status of cities does not only lean on government alone, stressing that it is a collective will and imagination of all relevant stakeholders.
He further said the government’s commitment is to make cities clean, green and prosperous which can only succeed as a collective enterprise.
To strike a balance between the government’s agenda to that of politics in the councils, Chinsinga said plans are at an advanced stage to introduce ‘City Summits’ as platforms where stakeholders can collectively own and chart the future of the cities.
When contacted yesterday, Blantyre City Council spokesperson Deborah Luka said they have started a sweeping exercise of vendors.
But both Lilongwe City Council spokesperson Tamara Chafunya and Mzuzu City Council spokesperson MacDonald Gondwe asked for more time while Zomba City Mayor Davie Mawunde could not be reached.
In a separate interview yesterday, Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) executive director Hadrod Mkandawire said while the move by the minister is a welcome development, the problem lies with the central government and not the councils themselves.
He said there is too much political interference in councils from the central government especially on certain important decisions citing the removal of street vendors.
Mkandawire said: “So, the first thing the minister has to do is ensure that the central government stops interfering in decisions and operations of all local government authorities. Once that is done, the councils will become viable, smart and sustainable.”
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira also said the move is commendable as smart towns and cities are what is expected.
He said: “However, one thing that is clear is that local authorities’ plans and budgets are failing because of rampant corruption and broken systems. No matter what plans the ministry may advance, corruption will always fail us.”
In recent years, local councils have been attributing the lack of enough refuse trucks and their intermittent breakdowns, as well as lack of financial resources as some of the challenges affecting them.