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Catch up on our ICT for Citizen Engagement project with David Samuel

Citizens for Justice as it continues to make strides in advocating for good governance, social accountability, and realizing the right to development, is implementing the ICT for Citizen Engagement project, using the Mzinda platform. We are airing radio programs on Zodiak Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBS) to increase participation of citizens in realising their rights to development.

We are thrilled to see the responsiveness from the citizens who have been sending in reports about different issues of service delivery, not only from the targeted cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre but also across the country like Kasungu, Mulanje and Zomba just to mention a few.

So far we have aired three programs and in each program we featured a councillor and a citizen around Lilongwe city, this is because these councillors have already been trained on the use of the platform and most of them have received reports from citizens on a number of developments in their areas. In each program we come up with a topic and the panel discusses on that particular topic. Highlighted below are notes from the panel discussion and engagement during the last radio program

The first program discussed the roles of the ward committee and how one can join as well as the role of traditional leaders in local governance. Councillor Gibson Nyirenda explained the election process of ward committee members. He highlighted that the committees are a composition of ten people with the councillor being the chairperson. He said they notify citizens of a set date when elections for ward committee members will be done under supervision of officials from the city council. He also explained the requirements for one to be a ward committee member. He said one should have shown interest in being of service to the area, should have knowledge of development challenges of the area and should be literate so that he or she can be able to understand communications from the council and track expenditure under the Councillor’s lead. Nyirenda said the main duties of the ward committee is to act as a voice for citizens to Councillors on the choice of development projects, share views on how best to implement projects and mobilise resources as well as undertake regular audits on the use of funds through the office of the Councillor on items such as bills of quantities for purchase of building materials.The Counillor said he was using the Mzinda platform and believed it is an initiative that is assisting councillors in engaging with citizens.

We also looked at the role of traditional authorities in local governance. Village Headman Jailos Phiri said as traditional leaders they are consulted by their elected leaders and they do work with ward committee members. He, however, said there have been instances where even after being consulted and agreeing on something with their elected leaders, their leaders go on and implement something else different from what they agreed on. 

The Village headman decried favouritism and corruption among Councillors and the ward committee in projects that involve paying out a little something to citizens selected to do work on some community projects. The Village headman also said he wanted to take the opportunity to seek clarification from the council on what happens when a councillor is incapacitated. He said their councillor has been sick for a year now and even though they informed their Member of Parliament and the city council, nothing has been done. Nyirenda said incapacitation can only be affirmed by medical personnel upon request for such to be done by those concerned. He therefore said without confirmation of such, the assumption is that the councillor is able to perform his duties but with challenges.

During the programme, 9 listeners texted in their questions:

  1. Do members of the ward committee get paid or it is a voluntary job?
  2. I can confirm that what the Village head is saying that here in Mtsiliza ward our Councilor is not well is true and we lack direction.
  3. Don’t you think that the aspect of members of the ward committee not getting any compensation for their service does no good to motivate them and may also be what leads to corruption
  4. Are there deliberate efforts to ensure gender balance in the ward committees?
  5. Let me appreciate that through this program there is a lot that we are learning and through this knowledge we can ably hold our Councilors and Members of Parliament accountable. Last week’s program on the funding schemes was an insight.
  6. Our plea here in Nsanje is that the Council in consultation with the district health office should take measures to ensure sanitation is not compromised during this rainy season.
  7. Here in Mulanje, Limbuli to be exact, our Member of Parliament laid a foundation for the construction of a market but it is now 5 months since construction stalled.
  8. Here in Dwangwa especially in Ukasi area; waste collection by the council leaves a lot to be desired.
  9. May I request our Councilor and Member of Parliament for Ntcheu South West to look into the possibility of undertaking maintenance works at Lizulu primary school.

From such interaction has helped us get feedback from the general public on what they have to say on service delivery in their areas and their working relationships with public office bearers. We remain with a few more programs and we are hoping you will participate and get feedback on what is happening in your area in terms of service delivery. Our next program we will have a representative from City Council and a Member of Parliament on Sunday at 5.30am. Tune in!

Engaging over the airwaves for improvements in service delivery in Malawi

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