Councillors in the Northern Region have torn apart government plans to offer them K1million loans strictly for motorcycles.
The conditions of service, spelled out in Mzuzu on Monday by director of local government Hastings Botha, entitle the councillors to a K1million (about $2 631) loan.
“You can take it or leave it,” said Botha at the belated regional meeting on their entitlements.
But the councillors elected five months ago, speaking through Mzuzu City mayor William Mkandawire, are petitioning government to increase the loan and scrap off the conditionality underpinning them to spend it on motorcycles alone.
They feel motorcycles are a harsh mode of transport, especially to women and councillors in cities and waterside localities.
Facing Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Tracizio Gowelo, Mkandawire said: “The loans that remain unpaid to councillors are inadequate and restrictive to say they should only be used for buying motorcycles.”
The councillors also petitioned government to repeal stipulations in the amended Local Government Act, which allow members of Parliament (MPs) to vote during local councils’ meetings. They feel it is “unreasonable and greedy” for one person to vote in two chambers.
“Ward councillors don’t have a say on decisions MPs make in Parliament and we wonder why they are allowed to vote in the local councils as well. As councillors, we want MPs to respect the political boundaries to avoid tension,” said Mkandawire.
When asked, Gowelo said the ministry cannot make a commitment to review the loans until the concerns are tabled in Cabinet which approved the decried conditions of services.
But he pledged to take “the unpopular task” of awakening Parliament to the fact that it is inappropriate for MPs to continue voting at local government level following the election of councillors in May.
“It is Parliament that made this law and it can only be undone by the MPs,” said Gowelo.
The role of MPs and council employees was bloated in the past nine years as the country was operating without councillors.