Rumphi District Council has signed a deal with civil society organisations (CSOs) to eliminate suppressed conflicts, competition and secrecy as the two parties strive to improve citizens’ lives.
The fragile ties of government agencies and CSOs in the district have been characterised by mistrust, demonstrations and counter-accusations since the country introduced plural politics in 1994, with the activists accusing council officials of denying the public access to vital information while the local government authority feels sidelined by the development partners.
On Tuesday, however, hugs, smiles and handshakes banished the murmurs of massive secrecy when district commissioner Lusizi Nhlane and Rumphi CSO Network deputy chairperson Fulument Mkinga signed the memorandum of understanding, which dates back to 2010.
“Cooperation is vital for socio-economic development. I am glad to witness the signing of this agreement because there is no need for misunderstanding and competition since both government and non-governmental organisation serve the same population. When they fight, it is people that suffer,” said Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe in an interview.
For the activists, Mkinga said the day symbolised the CSO network’s desire for unity and a shared commitment to work together with government in advancing good governance and development in the district.
“Today, we have demonstrated our determination to say bye to an era where civil society organisations and citizens had fears to approach council officials and the DC office was unreachable for us,” he said.
On his part, Nhlane urged the campaigners to desist from rushing into demonstrations as the new accord provides for dialogue and a joint consultative committee to settle contentious issues amicably.
The signing ceremony was funded by ActionAid Malawi which has been running a three-year transparency initiative to enhance budget tracking and accountability for equitable and sustainable development in the district.n