Ministry worried with silence on electoral laws, eligibility and tenure of mayors and district chairpersons

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development has expressed worry over the defeaning silence on the law governing the election, eligibility and term of office for chairpersons of district councils and mayors of city, municipal and town councils.

The ministry’s Deputy Director for Local Government Services, Douglas Mkweta, said something needs to be done to correct the anomalies.

Mkweta made the remarks in Salima during a training and peer learning workshop for mayors and chairpersons of local government authorities in Malawi.

District chairpersons and mayors

The workshop was organized by the Malawi Local Government Association (MALGA) and was aimed at equipping political heads of local councils with information in order for them to discharge their mandate efficiently.

Mkweta said everyone in the local government system is exercising their own mind to the issues emanating from the silence of the law on elections, eligibility and term of office for leaders of local councils.

“A lot is happening in the councils and examining that against the provisions of the law, you will find that the law is silent. For instance, where a councillor has served as chairperson the maximum number of terms for a five year period, is he or she eligible to contest for re-election as chairperson when voted again as a councillor in the next five year period? The law is silent,” said Mkweta.

He added that the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs or courts should be approached to interpret what the law is saying or what would be construed from what is provided in the law.

Mkweta also bemoaned the information gap in the leadership of local councils, saying it is affecting progression in the councils as secretariats and political leaderships are not on the same page on many issues.

“Council secretariats have been accused of not providing necessary information and documents on time for the knowledge and use of the political arms. For instance, this other council approved its budget based on a power point presentation.

“And the document could only be found in the office of the Director of Finance. The chairperson of the finance committee and even the district commissioner did not have a copy,” he said.

MALGA executive member, who is also the Mayor for Kasungu Municipal Council, Socrate Jere, concurred with Mkweta, saying this is the reason the workshop was organized in order to empower council political leaders to be able to play their oversight role well enough.

MALGA Executive Director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, said the workshop was necessary because it is part of a strengthening capacity program, which features highly in MALGA’s strategic plan for the next four years.

“This crop has mostly new chairpersons and deputy chairpersons. We wanted to induct them to ensure that they discharge their mandates and responsibilities according to the law, policy and in line with the government overarching development agenda. They should also be following procedures and processes.

“Sometimes elected members of the councils, especially councillors have acted outside the law when expressing themselves or discharging their mandates. Going forward, we will ensure that capacity strengthening of council members and even secretariat staff, is part of our call business,” Mkandawire said.

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