There was drama at Lilongwe Civic Offices on Wednesday morning when Mayor Desmond Bikoko had to be whisked away by police officers to rescue him from irate council employees who threatened to manhandle him.
The employees also ‘detained’ the mayor’s official vehicle, forcing him to use a hired saloon.
This happened after the employees forced the mayor and councillor Christopher Namakhwa to open offices of Lilongwe City Council chief executive officer (CEO) Moza Zeleza and his director of planning and development Hastings Mumba which were sealed on Monday following a resolution of a full council meeting.
In a communication addressed to Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa and signed by Namakhwa, it said the offices were sealed following the CEO’s failure to perform effectively in his position.
After closure of the offices on Monday, LCC staff convened at the Civic Offices on Wednesday morning where they demanded that the mayor should come to address them.
Upon his arrival, the staff said they did not see why the CEO was being penalised and they demanded that the CEO’s sealed office be opened at once.
After the sealed offices were opened and the keys handed over to the employees’ representative, the staff brought in new demands —that Bikoko must surrender the keys of his official vehicle, to which he obliged after resisting for a while.
At this stage, the police, who were on the scene, sensed danger and called for security backup. When that arrived, the mayor was whisked out of the offices leaving behind chanting employees who seemed not sure of what to do next.
Employees representative Gift Mkandawire said people demanded the opening of the sealed offices because they were not convinced with the allegations laid against Zeleza and Mumba.
According to a notification to Nankhumwa, it is alleged that Zeleza fails to implement council resolutions and does not comply with council resolutions on refuse collection, among several queries.
Several attempts to reach Zeleza, through his mobile cellular phone, proved futile, as the calls went unanswered. Also, texts to his WhatsApp account could not be delivered by the time we went to bed.
In a brief interview, Bikoko said that the opening of the offices does not mean that the issues have been resolved. He added that he would engage the ministry, where a meeting was scheduled between him and the minister or his representatives, to chart the way forward.