Councillors at M’mbelwa District Council have compiled a report on the poor state of development in Mzimba. They recommend the splitting of the country’s largest district. JOHN CHIRWA engaged the council’s development committee chairperson, councillor Fumu Mdolo, on why they want Mzimba to be split.
Why should Mzimba District be divided?
Mzimba needs to be divided to make sure that developments trickle down to the rural people. The district is suffering, considering government’s formula of devolving money to councils. The district is too big, half the size of Israel which is over 20 000 square kilometres. Mzimba is 10 382 square kilometres. This is 576 times bigger than Likoma District, which is 18 square kilometres. Thyolo, Phalombe or Neno are seven times smaller than Mzimba. But if we compare the money that goes to these districts with that going to Mzimba, then Mzimba cannot develop.
How does government devolve money into councils?
There are many factors used when devolving funds into councils. Some of them include population, poverty index and so on. But I do not think geographical size of Mzimba is factored in when devolving the funds to M’mbelwa District Council. For example, in the 2015/16 financial year, we got K243 million for development while Likoma got K81 million. This does not tally at all if size of the district were considered.
But is splitting the district the best solution to this problem?
Mzimba is already divided, only that the duty-bearers do not want to see it. We already have Mzimba North and Mzimba South. Both of these offices have district education officers, district health officers and district agricultural development officers. But if that is to mean anything on the ground, we need to have two district commissioners to head these offices. Otherwise, it remains the same. For example, there is no increment in funding. The two offices share the same funding devolved on M’mbelwa District Council account. What is needed now is to officially divide the district and possibly have three or four separate districts that can have their own district commissioners and accounts.
So Mzimba North and Mzimba South get funding from the same pool, but how is that affecting development?
There is no development. People are still poor. Even today, a 14-year-child is lacking basic things such as underwear. This means people are very poor. For example, at Khosolo, there is literally no development. It will take at least 50 years for Mzimba to match other districts. We did an assessment that we will present at the full council meeting. We established that people are still travelling more than 12 kilometres to find basic necessities such as food, water, health and education. This is against government’s policy that such services should be within a six-kilometre radius.
In the past, chiefs stood against such suggestions. Will they be convinced this time around to have the district divided?
I am puzzled that we are still thinking as if we are in Nyasaland. Now things are changing. If we are talking of democracy, our mindset has to change as well. We need to be democratic and at the same time give power to the people. What are the people saying? People are crying. As leaders or duty-bearers we need to listen to the people because Mzimba is crying.
Are chiefs not going to lose their chieftaincy when the district is divided?
When the district is split, the authority will still be under Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa. The powers of the Paramount Chief will not be reduced. The division is for the council where we will have several DCs. But the Paramount Chief can still reign over them as is the case with Paramount Chief Kyungu of Chitipa and Karonga districts. So, what is needed is to lobby for the chiefs to understand that people are crying. n