Details have emerged that Lilongwe City Council’s (LCC) decision to seal offices for chief executive officer John Chome and two directors may have nothing to do with delayed salaries.
Rather, the council secretariat’s move to seal offices at Malawi Congress Party (MCP) headquarters last Thursday is behind the drama.
In separate interviews yesterday, two senior officials at the council and one of the affected directors confided yesterday that councillors—led by Mayor Juliana Kaduya—have taken advantage of the salary issue to deal with the three for “embarrassing the MCP” after sealing the party’s offices for nonpayment of ground rentals.
The sealing of property was part of a broader campaign by the city to force city council rates defaulters to pay up amid a cash crunch at LCC.
Offices for the city’s CEO, director of administration MussaMwale and director of finance Elliam Banda remain sealed since Monday.
This situation has affected the council’s operations, according to insiders we have spoken to.
On Monday this week Kaduya, after leading the sealing off of the executives’ offices, told The Nation that councillors had lost confidence in the management following their communication to council employees that salaries for November would be phased— starting with employees of lower grades until everyone is paid.
In his communication dated November 26 2021 addressed to LCC employees, Chome cited low cash flow as what necessitated
their decision to phase salaries.
“After sealing [MCP] offices phone calls started coming pressurising management to reopen the offices. There were all manner of threats from councillors and some other senior government officials connected to the party. But all this drama was expected and what gave us confidence to proceed was the resolution of the full council itself to proceed with the debt collection campaign,” said one of the managers.
“MCP argues that it cannot pay all this amount, which dates back to several years ago because the building was not being used for a long time after being bombed during operation Bwezani, therefore, rates should only reflect the period they have been using it.
“But it does not work that way. We charge rates on property whether someone is using it or not. We saw this coming, but we thought if we do not seal the MCP offices, which tops the debt list, then we would be accused of selective enforcement,” said one of the affected officials.
The three affected managers have since written the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, to which the councillors also raised their concerns.
Kaduya, an MCP member, and whose intervention sources allege led to the opening of the MCP offices last Thursday, has not responded to these allegations.
Local Government Deputy Minister Halima Daudi also promised to respond by close of business yesterday, but we got nothing until we went to press.
While MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali has not responded to our questionnaire, Mustapha Hussein, a lecturer in public administration and political studies at University of Malawi could not rule out a possible influence from MCP considering that it is on the driving seat of government