A part from failure by government to patch up the leaking economy bucket, uniting members of Parliament (MPs) and councillors has remained another uphill task.
In fact, disagreements and political bickering between the two political divides proved to be the most interesting pastime in places of leisure and temples of worship.
These disagreements, according to experts, emanate from the lack of clarity between the role of an MP and a councillor. As a result, the differences have not spared MPs and councillors belonging to the same political party.
Some of the disagreements proved to be too big for political parties to sort out.
It was not surprising, therefore, to hear government raising a concern in August 2014 that although the Descent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (DAHSP), popularly known as the Malata Subsidy, had not rolled out, some MPs and councillors were already up in arms over who should take the lead in identifying beneficiaries.
Notable disagreements were reported in such constituencies as Mangochi Makanjira, Mangochi Lutende, Mangochi Nkungulu, Mangochi South West and Mangochi Central.
Some of the legislators accused councillors of trying to take advantage of the programme to wrest power from them in the 2019 elections. They claimed that councillors were only registering their political allies at the expense of deserving people.
On the other hand, councillors heaped the blame on MPs, whom they argued were in the dark on the roles and responsibilities of a legislator.
Executive director of the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust Ollen Mwalubunju, speaking when he officially opened a training workshop for MPs and councillors last week, seemed to agree with this line of thinking.
However, Mwalubunju hastened to clarify that the problem arises from lack of awareness and knowledge on one’s roles and responsibilities among elected leaders. He also blamed it on misplaced demands from the electorate.
He observed that Malawians have, since councillors were ushered into office, continued to pile pressure on lawmakers to manage developmental projects such as construction of school blocks, local feeder roads and bridges, which councillors are mandated to take charge.
“Such misplaced demands put MPs on a collision course with councillors over roles and responsibilities in their [MPs’] effort to meet the demands and expectations of the electorate,” said Mwalubunju.
Constitutionally, Mwalubunju stated, councillors are supposed to take charge in initiating developmental projects at the local level.
“Yet, we have a significant proportion of the Malawi electorate that has made ‘bringing development’ the benchmark for a performing MP. And this has tended to stir tensions between MPs and councillors over their roles and responsibilities,” he explained.
He warned that MPs will continue to do the work of councillors even if this is in conflict with the Constitution as long as it guarantees them re-election beyond their term of office.
Fearing the negative impact misplaced demands could create on the socioeconomic development and democratic governance of the district, Nice district civic education officer (DCEO) for Nsanje, Kondwani Malunga, last weekend organised a day-long civic education for representatives of various parties.
Malunga said the major objective of the meeting was to allow all parties represented in the district to decide their future.
It also aimed to educate elected leaders on their roles and responsibilities in an effort to diffuse the said tensions and also provide a platform for them to interact with unelected representatives from all the parties represented in the district.
And speaking at the meeting, which was financed by the European Union (EU), chairperson of Political Party Forum for Nsanje, Louis Chindevu, said civic education was the most effective tool in diffusing tensions and entrenching principles of democracy and good governance.
Chindevu said while interaction among governors of different political parties used to be a taboo as most politicians lacked knowledge on the idea behind politics, the initiative taken by Nice had proven that violence-free politics and elections are possible.
“It is also a good way of promoting development since all of us will be actively participating in development activities. We’re now able to interact freely and cannot castigate a member of another party following the civic and voter education Nice is providing in the district,” he said.
Chindevu said politicians in the district have also been enlightened on the need for politicians to take an active role in monitoring development activities in their areas and collectively engaging elected leaders and service providers if not satisfied with the provided services.