Malawi Congress Party (MCP) councillor for Chigoneka ward Desmond Bikoko was recently elected Lilongwe City Council mayor replacing the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councillor for Kawale 1 Ward Willie Chipondera.Bikoko has since pledged to make sure that the council is audited for the past three financial years and to transform Lilongwe to a morden city. Our reporter NELLIE JOBO caught up with BIKOKO. Excerpts:
: We understand you want to change the face of the Capital within two years into a world class city under your leadership, will this be possible?
Ihave an ambitious vision for Lilongwe and I know two years may not be enough but I am determined to get things done. Since my election to the office of mayor, people’s expectations have been high and there is a lot of goodwill. I want to take advantage of that goodwill and partner with Lilongwe residents and the business community to ensure that we collectively take part in the transformation of Lilongwe.
But to do that you need resources, right?
The Council needs resources in order to implement my vision, but I am also aware that there is need for transparency and accountability in how these resources are used. I also want a collaborative relationship between the Council and Malawi Government. I have already reached out to key stakeholders and the response has been very encouraging especially from the Minister of Local Government, Honorable Nakhumwa, Malawi Army, Local Government Service Commission, Malawi Police, Senior Government Officials.
I also intend to reach out to the President and Vice-President of the Republic. I will provide that political leadership that is transformational and will do what needs to be done without looking at political colours. Lilongwe is bigger than any political party and that’s the attitude we should all adopt if we are to change this country.
Currently, what is Lilongwe City’s strategic planning process?
Lilongwe City Council has a City Development Strategy (CDS) which describes the long term strategic direction of the city from 2010 to 2015. I have gone through it. I would want to adopt the same for the next five years as there was no implementation previously.
Under Section 76B (b) of the Local Government Act 1989, a councillor is required to impartially exercise his or her responsibilities in the interests of the local community’. While this may be self-evident, in practice it is far more complex. As MCP councilor, how will you ensure you serve residents well?
Councillors just like other politicians either are sponsored by a political party or stand as an independent. However, once elected, a councillor should understand that he/she is a representative of the electorate and party affiliation should not be a reason of not accommodating different views. The mistake we make as politicians is that we place loyalty to the party and tend to shun from our representative roles and responsibilities. We tend to look at those belonging to different political grouping as not so important.
Lilongwe residents are worried with declining governance standards in this city, I would say there is too much corruption in how people get service such as acquiring land, what will be your role in establishing standards of good governance at the council?
I have always said that running for public office should be a service to your country and not a way of self-enrichment and as such, we should be making key strategic decisions regarding priorities, roles, defining citizenry expectations and respect for the constitution and laws of Malawi. Good governance for me is achieving expected results in a manner consistent with values and accepted norms. As politicians in Malawi, we have a long way to go, but I am very optimistic that we will one day get there.
Another issue of concern is that unlike in Blantyre where residents pay parking fees, Lilongwe is yet to embrace this development. How do you intend to convince citizens to pay parking fees?
We first have to look at the benefits to the city residents. If we are collecting traffic fees or any other fees, we have to reinvest part of the money back into the community. By that I mean we need to look at reinvesting into traffic lights, street lights, fixing drainage systems, pot holes in our streets, etc. When citizens are paying rates to city council, they are virtually investing and as with any other investor, they would want to see returns on their investments otherwise there would not be any motivation for investment. n