Advocacy Group Members demand answers from Duty Bearers in Machinga District

On the 19th of August 2021, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) organised an interface meeting between advocacy group members from TA Nkula, TA Nsanama and TA Chikweo, and duty bearers at Liwonde Sun Hotel, in Machinga.

Aim of the Meeting

The meeting was necessitated by developmental issues such as uncompleted school buildings, bad roads, early marriages, deforestation, and corruption among others, which advocacy group members brought up during a feedback meeting held in July 2021. It was an opportunity for the advocacy group members to hold duty bearers accountable for developmental issues affecting their communities. Duty bearers were invited based on the issues which had been raised during the feedback meeting.

The duty bearers who graced the occasion were: Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD), Plan Malawi, Forestry Department, Councillor – Lisanjala Ward, CADECOM – Zomba, CADECOM – Mangochi, TA Chikweo, TA Nsamala, DPD Rep, CSO Chair, and Vice Chair, District Information Officer from DC’s office and District Agricultural Development Officer (DADO).

The meeting started a bit late, 10:15am due to the change of venue and late arrival of some duty bearers.

Issues Raised

The issues of concern were first read and tackled one by one as follows:

1. Uncompleted School Blocks and Houses for Teachers at Mkapalira School in Mangulu Village

This issue was supposed to be tackle by the MP, Hon. Fyness Magonjwa, who unfortunately did not turn-up nor sent a delegate; thus, the issue was not tackled.

2. Promise to Construct a Bridge at Mkhumbwa – but this has not been done

The Member of Parliament for the area, Hon. Fyness Magonjwa who promised to construct a bridge at Mkhumbwa, was not present to respond to the above issue. Another related query which was reported by advocacy group members is about public works program, whereby some people were not paid after working on roads. The DPD Rep said that some of the people who could have answered to this issue of non payment were not invited (public works people). It was reported that though they were not invited, they were busy with other meetings. He also said that Constituency Development Fund (CDF) this year had other problems. Therefore, things did not go as expected, resulting in people not being paid as expected. He, therefore, promised that this issue will be presented to the relevant authorities accordingly.

The councillor, Mr. Richard Matenje, for Lisanjala ward, lamented that in Machinga things are not moving because at DC’s office there is complacency when it comes to monitoring of developmental projects. He commended the presence of CfSC because he was optimistic that things will change with her interventions. The councillor gave an example of the poorly constructed bridge at Mkhumbwa, which is a death trap as mentioned by advocacy group members. He alleged that no one from the DC’s office have gone to monitor the construction yet. The Councillor requested the DPD to pass on this information to the relevant authorities, so that those not paid for doing public works are paid with immediate effect.

3. Uncompleted Teachers’ Houses and Office Space

The MP, Hon. Fyness Magonjwa who was supposed to respond to this problem did not attend the interface meeting.

4. Rise in Early marriages (+ more Girls became Pregnant during the Covid-19 Pandemic)

This issue was debated at length. It was reported that as of now, 15 girls have been impregnated. Some advocacy group members made follow-up which led to re-enrolment of young girls to school, although others are refusing to go back to school. Advocacy group members pleaded with authorities to denounce the tendency of youths having overnights at wedding preparations (michezo), since it is during these moments that they have sex at night, resulting in unplanned pregnancies. The councillor for Lisanjala ward chipped in by saying sometimes this culture is being perpetrated by traditional leaders who do not act against this malpractice since any type of marriage conducted in the village is graced by a village head. He added that there should be stiff punishment to anyone who allows this malpractice to happen.

A duty bearer from Plan Malawi, who is also a co-chair of a certain gender committee agreed that there are many pregnancies on the rise. He said that it is the duty of everyone to solve this problem, and that it should start with the community. He thinks that, perhaps the youths have not received adequate education which could enable them to make informed decisions about their future. Therefore, the main actors for change should come from the community because this issue has been embedded in the culture. He said Youth Network for Counselling (YONECO) started with fire, but people have now started dousing this fire with water to make it harmless. Chiefs should side with NGOs, police, and gender-welfare office to fight against this problem. The greatest problem with community members is the hiding of information and identity of the perpetrators. If evidence of Gender Based Violence and things that hamper the right of children is being hidden, then we are not going to win this battle. The status quo will remain. We all have the duty of preventing pregnancies among children; thus, parents must be serious and chiefs should tighten the rules and by-laws.

The District Information Officer (DIO) said that government is aware of the issue. It is for this reason that the full lock-down was not implemented. It was a lesson from the partial lockdown we had that led to increased child pregnancies, due to idleness of the children.

TA Chikweo also said that some chiefs understand this issue of child protection, while others do not still understand it. He requested that when organisation start their work, they should monitor how things are progressing because these children do not understand their rights, which is why they do whatever they want, not knowing that rights have limits and consequences.

TA Nsanama said there is need for him to invite all the chiefs in his area to discuss this issue, so that something is done to reduce this problem which is haunting these children.

The CSO chair also in reaction said that NGOs complement whatever government is doing, and that it is a responsibility of everyone to take part in fighting against child marriages, which is also a form of gender-based violence. He said that chiefs alone cannot tackle this problem because they do not live with the victims, but parents/guardians are supposed to be at the fore front. Organisations can strengthen the work,however, if people hide vital information the problem will continue to exist and haunt our children forever.

A lady from one of the advocacy groups bemoaned the way girls and boys dress these days, and when rebuked, they say it is their freedom to dress like, though it is a disgrace to certain people as per their culture. She requested teachers to do something about the dress code.

The DPD summarised the whole issue as follows:

  • All TAs were supposed to be invited for the sake of this type of problem which is common in all the areas. This was about sharing of information.
  • Bylaws need to be strengthened
  • Most of development partners dwell much on the rights of the people without mentioning about responsibilities that go together with these rights.
  • There is need for continuous awareness creation on issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV)

The DPD also said that advocacy members should know that they have the power to call organizations for the meeting, to let them (organizations) provide reports on the progress of their project activities within their communities.

5. Some Teachers Impregnate Girls in some Schools (some Teachers are Habitual Offenders)

This issue has similarities with what has been explained under early marriages. Advocacy group member from TA Nsanama made follow ups with the head of Chikweo primary school where a teacher impregnated a girl and got transferred to another place. However, they did not get a satisfactory response and they got stuck there. Another similar case was reported to the social welfare department and they said they would follow-up the issue, but until now communities have not received any response. It was reported that there is a certain teacher who has been impregnating girls and it was alleged that he paid MK200,000.00 to the parents of the girl. The parents backed the teacher, saying the teacher will be supporting the child, though the law was supposed to be applied, instead of transferring the teacher to another school. This will not necessarily deter him from impregnating other girls.

The DIO advised the advocacy group that when reporting, they are supposed to give all the details of the issue and this includes: name of the school, name of the child, where he has been transferred to in order to make investigations easier. In this way, even if the teacher has been transferred, they should get hold of him, and not dwell on rumours. The advocacy members were asked to collect all the information needed about the incident and give it to the existing task force on child marriage in order for it to be investigated and the perpetrator brought book. He added that, this problem is not only with teachers but also the rest of the community members. Thus, if anyone does the same thing, the person should not be spared.

6. Poorly constructed bridge at Lisanjala

The MP who was supposed to respond to this issue did not come.

7. Plan Malawi has been Distributing Goats from Outside Machinga which Communities claim that They Die due to Different Weather Conditions

Communities wondered why Plan Malawi buys goats from outside Machinga instead of buying them within the district. They said there is high mortality rate among the goats because they are bought from other districts where the weather condition is different from that of Machinga district. They also requested the organisation to be providing drug boxes in order to reduce mortality of goats under livestock pass-on scheme. They also requested Plan Malawi to train paravets (community based veterinary personnel) to be assisting the people. In contrast to this, the ADC chair reported that drugs were provided and paravets were also trained to be assisting communities. He requested that goats should be bought from the same district. Communities claimed and believed that goats die because they experience changed weather conditions since they come from different areas with different weather conditions. They also lamented that few goats are distributed for large groups. A Plan Malawi officer later on justified why other goats were bought outside Machinga district.

The councillor for Lisanjala ward wanted to know if the budgets are properly done to make them buy only few goats. In response, a Project Officer for Plan Malawi responded by saying that their organisation is only complementing what government is doing. Nevertheless, they present the plans to the District Executive Committee (DEC) to make it aware of what the organisation will do and their limitations. He explained that there was indeed a plan to buy the goats from Machinga but the one who won the contract to supply the required number of goats did not manage to do so, because some goats which could have been bought in Machinga were already under livestock pass-on scheme of other organisations. Therefore, goats under this programme are not supposed to be sold. That is why they had to go as far as Balaka and Mangochi to buy the goats.  These districts share the same weather pattern with Machinga. He reiterated that the claimed high mortality rate of goats still needs to be researched. The high mortality rate is not necessarily because they were bought from outside Machinga district. He, however, denied that drugs were not provided. The ADC chair concurred with him that drug boxes were provided by the organisation. There is clear evidence that some people do not have enough information about what is happening in the villages; hence, this contradiction among community members.

8. Failure by Community to Coordinate and Access Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) Services at Chikweo

During the meeting, advocacy group members from TA Nkula commended CADECOM Zomba for the work they are doing in supporting the people. They added that whenever they seek any assistance, the CADECOM-Zomba officer is always there on time; and she listens to their problems. Initial remarks indicated that the field officer for CADECOM Mangochi was not visiting the area, of which he denied. Few minutes later, some people from Nsanama advocacy group started commending him. Surely, the information was conflicting and inconclusive.

9. Deforestation in TA Chikweo

Communities were worried about the ‘corrupt’ behaviour of the forestry staff. They were alleged to be selling confiscated charcoal, and sharing the proceeds amongst themselves. A behaviour which is believed to be enhancing wanton cutting down of trees. People are being charged but still cutting down of trees continues.

The forestry officer explained that there are two types of forests, one managed by the government and the other managed by the traditional leaders. The above mentioned problem is happening in forests managed by traditional leaders. The officer added that, the forest at TA Chikweo, where this complaint originated is not government forest. He even asked the people, ‘who elected those managing the forest?’ It was learnt that the communities themselves elected the members of the Village Natural Resources Management Committee (VNRMC). The Forestry Officer also asked the people, ‘who confiscated the charcoal, was it the government staff or the VNRMC?’ It was discovered that the village committee was the one which confiscated the charcoal.

TA Chikweo pointed out that although the forest is managed by the community, government staff who are confusing things by interfering into community manages the forest. The chief emphasized the need to have by-laws to help in protecting and preserving the forest in collaboration with forest department staff.

CADECOM-Zomba staff said that they have put much effort to facilitate the establishment of by-laws by the VNRMC, since November 2020. They were told that there is only one person to sign on the draft by-laws but up to now the signing is not yet done. This is delaying activities of preserving and protecting the forest at Mlelemba. She added that once the document is signed, this will help people of Mlelemba a lot. The forestry officer conceded that he knows about the existence of the document but it will need the signature of the Director of Forestry since the forest at Mlelemba is under the government.

10. Lack of Ambulance at the Hospital in Chikweo

Both the DHO and the MP were not present to respond to the above issue from advocacy group members. However, it was learnt that Chikweo hospital had earlier on been promised an ambulance. The DPD said that the issue will be sent to the authorities concerned. The advocacy members expressed their disappointment about the conduct of some duty bearers who absent themselves whenever they are invited to meetings to discuss development issues. It was also reported that there was another ambulance of which the DHO said that it would be sent to Chikweo. On the contrary, the said ambulance is right now at Ntaja because there is no enough fuel to be reaching as far as Chikweo.

11. Corruption when Accessing Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) Fertilizers/Seeds

Communities lamented as how AIP program is being managed, which is full of corruption. Government set a price of not more than MK5,000 a bag of fertilizer, but farmers are asked to pay more than MK10,000 for two bags of fertilizer. For instance, at Kulima Gold some farmers were told to pay as much as MK24,000 for 2 bags. Besides, sometimes IDs are taken from the right owners by vendors who act as middlemen to assist them buy the inputs. Unfortunately, the vendors end up using the IDs to help themselves. Other constraints which were reported were about network problem and travelling long distances to where inputs are available.

The councillor for Lisanjala ward said that sometimes farmers are to blame because whenever these problems happen, they hide the information; hence, shielding those doing the malpractice. This makes the problem to prolong without any solution.

The District Information Officer emphasized that as soon as communities face such problems, they should act immediately and not wait for the interface meeting such as this one organised by the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC). He added that some issues can be resolved right there within the community by not being fearful of the authorities.

The District Agricultural Development Officer (DADO) said that government is now changing the methodology of buying subsidised inputs. In the past three people from different villages went to the same market and this was not a good method. Now people from one village, together with village head will be going to one market because the chief knows his subjects and no one who is not from the chief’s village can come lest he or she be discovered by the chief.


The interface meeting went on well although it started late due to change of the venue as it has been stated above. Initially, the meeting was supposed to be held at Zest Lodge but it was later changed to Liwonde Sun Village. All the participants fully participated and the discussions were lively.


Some of the duty bearers suggested the following:

  1. When sending invitation letters, include issues so that the duty bearers should know them before hand for effective consolidation of responses.
  2. When it comes to issues of payments to communities who participate in public works, it is better to also include public works officials.
  3. The list of issues was long. When issues come on the way, try to arrange for an interface meeting rather than waiting for them to build up. When issues are too many, people have inadequate time to discuss them. In fact, it is for this very reason that this particular meeting got finished at around 3pm.

By: Kondwani Hara, Rural Basic Needs Basket (RBNB) Project Officer.

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