There was commotion at Chitipa District Council Secretariat on Friday when a charged crowd stormed the office of acting district commissioner Grace Zione Chirwa demanding its immediate closure.
The self-styled concerned citizens were clamouring to drive out Chirwa who last month obtained an injunction against her demotion and transfer to Rumphi where she was earmarked for the position of director of administration.
The order from the High Court in Mzuzu has left Chirwa’s potential successor Rodney Simwaka lodging at Chitipa Inn while waiting for an uncertain end to the saga.
As the wait continues, the nearly 300 protestors weighed in with placards, expressing their discontent and accusing Chirwa of letting down the people of Chitipa.
The disgruntled citizens peacefully marched from Chitipa Boma Market Square to the DC’s office, chanting “Grace achoke! [Grace must go]” amid deafening songs and drumming.
Chirwa was out of office when the protestors handed in a petition calling for her exit to pave the way for Simwaka.
In her absence, the group was welcomed by police officer in-charge Peter Chinseu and acting director of administration (DOA) Lino Nyirenda.
Chirwa obtained a court injunction at the High Court in Mzuzu prohibiting the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development from implementing her demotion,
“Chirwa must go,” said demonstration organiser Philemon Mtambo.
He said: “We are also asking government to engage auditors to establish how much of our meagre resources have been plundered under Chirwa’s administration.”
But Chinseu argued that the group has no mandate to seal the DC’s office, saying doing so “would paralyse service delivery” at the council.
The group, which had the backing of some council officials, has threatened to take an unspecified action if Chirwa does not vacate her offices, by Monday, March 30 2015.
In an interview, Chirwa said: “The OC [officer-in-charge] has briefed me about what happened on Friday. Let them go ahead with their plans.”
Chirwa has fallen out of grace with Chitipa citizens, including members of Parliament, chiefs and councillors.
On March 13, the local leaders petitioned the principal secretary (PS) for Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, expressing their support for Chirwa’s transfer.
The stand-off has left the council with factions as some council officials refuse to take orders from Chirwa, creating a free-for-all environment which onlookers liken to a ship navigating in turbulent waters without a captain. n