Hundreds of people that participated in the local governance debate at Catholic University of Malawi (Cunima) in Chiradzulu on Saturday came out decisive against members of Parliament (MPs) voting at local council meetings.
In 2010, Parliament amended the 1999 Local Government Act to include, among others, voting powers for MPs at local councils.
During the first of the six series of debate by the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice Public Trust), out of 15 participants that expressed their views, only three supported the idea of MPs voting at the local council.
The arguments against MPs voting at local councils—which most participants expressed—included the need for respecting the constitutional provision of separation of powers, especially between the Executive and the Legislature.
Making his case, head of political leadership at Cunima, Everisto Msompha, argued that MPs have legislative powers, as such; their involvement in voting at local councils flips them to the Executive arm of government.
He said: “Having the same group of people sitting at the helm of legislative and executive decisions defeat the entire principle of separation of powers.”
Msompha further advanced that he would want MPs to play the role of overseers at local council because their power to vote means that they also have a power to control and influence.
President of Cunima’s Association of Political Science Students, James Mlonda, said it is a mark of “vast greed” on the part of MPs to, again, be exerting control at local councils.
“This is not the first time we are having councillors. When we had them before, they were able to vote and make decisions and we never experienced any problem.
“Again, even when there has never been research to show that the system had flaws, MPs on their own changed the law. This is greed and, as a nation, we should not tolerate. I would if we can rise up and change the law,” he said.
However, serving councillor for Chikowa Ward in Chiradzulu South Constituency, Alick Naphiyo, said he is yet to find a problem with MPs voting at local councils.
“We need to cultivate a culture of working together. MPs also play a representative role. If we chase them away at local councils, how will they ably represent our concerns in Parliament? We need to work with, not against them,” he said.
The EU-funded debates—which were aired live on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and hosted by journalist Wisdom Chimgwede—also tackled the necessity of MPs’ continued involvement in the implementation of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and Local Development Fund (LDF).
Most participants expressed their displeasure with MPs’ involvement in CDF and LDF, arguing these should be left to councillors because they are close to the people.
Carrying a different approach, these debates have been organised in venues that would not only ensure youth involvement, but also intelligible participation. As such these debates have targeted institutions of higher learning that is why after Cunima, they will proceed to Chancellor College in Zomba, the Polytechnic in Blantyre and Mzuzu University up North.
The idea is that the world over, universities and colleges, have provided influence to the national discourse on matters that matter to masses.