Malawians trust the clergy and traditional leaders more than they trust politicians at various levels, including the President, a survey has revealed.
Findings of a survey titled The Paradox of Traditional Leadership in Democratic Malawi conducted by the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College released on Friday have shown that the clergy lead trust ratings at 83 percent followed by chiefs at 76 percent and non-governmental organisation leaders at 65 percent.
According to the survey, ward councillors, at 48 percent trust rating, are the most trusted among politicians. They are followed by members of Parliament (MPs) at 44 percent while the President is least trusted at 41 percent.
However, despite the trust, 31 percent of respondents believe that their village heads are party supporters. In contrast, the findings show, traditional leaders themselves believe about 19 percent of them belong to political parties.
In terms of roles of traditional leadership, 91 percent of Malawians considered traditional leaders to be relevant in the modern era.
Reads the report in part: “Traditional leaders are considered to be most relevant by southerners and least relevant by citizens in the Northern Region. There is no significant difference among those who consider traditional leaders as relevant by education or gender.”
The findings come against the background of traditional leaders coming under fire from various quarters for toeing the governing party line.
Yesterday, some of the chiefs called for a well-defined system that separates the affairs of a political party from government.
In the absence of such a mechanism, the chiefs argued, perceptions about some of them being politically comprised will never end.
“Government machinery is different from ruling party machinery, but it is very difficult to differentiate because usually officials who come to work with us wear party colours but drive government machinery,” observed Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa V of Mzimba.
On the public trust Malawians have in chiefs, M’mbelwa V said the newscontradicts people’s opinion that traditional leaders are the most corrupt.
Senior Chief Kaomba of Kasungu said public trust has come because of the traditional leaders’ structures that spearhead development projects in the communities.
But Kaomba said chiefs were not politicians as such they could not be biased towards any ruling party.
While confessing that local leaders deserve the public trust, Senior Chief Somba of Blantyre said the good news was being ruined by some few bad apples.
He said: “But we should commend the ADC and VDC [area development committees and village development committees] which are now making things take a proper direction.”
Human rights activist Gift Trapence said it was important to note that chiefs come from diverse backgrounds that was why some allow to be used as “pawns” of politicians.
On his part, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa said people’s trust in chiefs in as far as spearheading developmentproject was as a result of government’s decentralisation policy.
The Paradox of Traditional Leadership in Democratic Malawi Survey was conducted by Boniface Dulani (PhD), Happy Kayuni (PhD), Michael Chasukwa and Gift Sambo. It was a third a series of surveys sponsored by the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development.