Thousands of registered voters in Nsanje South Constituency braved the scorching heat on Wednesday to participate in a public debate where aspiring MPs articulated development projects they will implement if voted into office on May 20.
The public debate, held at Mtowe Community Day Secondary School, was organised by a local non-governmental organisation, Tiphedzane Community Support Organisation (Ticoso), with funding from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).
Out of the five aspiring MPs, four turned up. They included Thomson Kamangira (DPP), George Mulolo (UDF), Ephet Phekani (PP) and independent candidate Gloria Ntopi.
Anderson Sumbulero of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) excused himself from the debate at the eleventh hour.
First to ask the contestants was Christopher Chikoti, a registered voter from Tipa Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Ndamera.
Chikoti said the area remains undeveloped because previous MPs did not have a clear agenda of what they wanted to achieve during their tenure.
“How can you assure us that you are different from the past MPs? What do your manifestos say?” said Chikoti.
He also challenged the candidates to distribute their manifestos in time to allow for scrutiny by the electorate before the polling day.
While Kamangira, Mulolo and Phekani seemed to have convinced the voters with their responses, all was not well with Ntopi, the sitting MP for the area.
People jeered at everything Ntopi said and, at times, distracted her from articulating development projects she intends to implement if given a second term.
“Ukunama iwe, bwanji unalephera kuchita zimenezo pamene unali phungu? [You are lying. Why didn’t you implement those projects when you were MP?]” they chorused.
But the MP said she failed to implement most of her development projects because of lack of support from the people.
“I couldn’t dream about what you need. You frustrated my development aspirations by denying me the necessary support I needed to put into practice what I had promised,” she explained.
In his closing remarks, acting T/A Nyachikadza hailed the organisation for organising the debate, saying it afforded people an opportunity to ask politicians pertinent questions.
“Politicians are usually inaccessible to local people. I am very grateful that you decided to bring them to us so that we can engage them in such a fruitful discussion,” said Nyachikadza.
Ticoso executive director Mike Dansa said the debate was organised to provide room for voters and political leaders to engage in a serious discussion on social, economic and development problems affecting the area.
“I am very impressed with the outcome of the debate. It was lively and it seems everyone wanted to ask questions. This is very encouraging,” said Dansa.