President Peter Mutharika’s directive on July 15 2019, that the Shire River at Liwonde be the boundary between Balaka and Machinga has settled the two district’s protracted dispute, bordering on revenue collection.
According to a letter we have seen, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development has with immediate effect stopped Machinga District Council from collecting revenue from vendors and property owners at Mangochi Turn-Off and Liwonde Roadblock .
In a letter, Ref. No. LG/2/525, dated July 18 2019, Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development, Charles Kalemba, says according to Regional and District Boundaries and Place Names Act, Cap. 18:04 the power to amend the First Schedule is vested in the President and, similarly, Local Government Act, Cap22:01 (as amended in 2010) Section 4 establishes local government areas.
“Therefore, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development [Benson Phiri]has declared councils of Balaka and Machinga, and the boundary will be at Shire River, as per His Excellency’s Mutharika declaration,” reads Kalemba’s letter, in part.
He goes on to explain that this means Liwonde Town will be annexed to both Machinga and Balaka, and subsequently the responsibility of collecting revenue and service provision to the north of Shire River will be under Balaka Council, unlike before when Machinga used to cross the Shire to collect revenue.
Reacting to the development, Balaka district commissioner (DC) Alli Phiri said the decision was long overdue as people of Balaka have been deprived of better services.
“We were already providing services such as health, education, relief and infrastructure development to the two areas, but the revenue collected was being used to develop Machinga,” he said.
Phiri said the decision will increase Balaka’s revenue base and enhance service delivery.
Nkhadze Alive Youth Organisation (Nayorg), which has been financially supporting community action on the boundary issue, through Tilitonse Foundation-funded ‘Increasing accountability and transparency in revenue use, management and collection’ project, has welcomed the decision by government.
Nayorg executive director Charles Sinetre said they facilitated dialogue over the dispute after vendors, chiefs and other interested stakeholders threatened to stop paying market fees and levies to Machinga District Council, after July 16 2019.
Mangochi Turn-Off and Liwonde Roadblock markets coordinator John Awadi said Machinga District Council continually ignored routine market maintenance and sanitation; hence the decision to boycott paying fees and levies.
“In any case, the two markets physically belonged to Balaka; why Machinga council was collecting market revenue only to use it to develop Machinga, was beyond understanding,” he said.
Awadi said even needy students requiring bursaries were going to Balaka because Machinga council was refusing to help them.