Community members with Luchenza Municipality have hailed the National initiative for Civic Education (NICE) for implementing a civic education project project which has enabled them to take to task duty bearers and service providers who abuse public funds meant for development.
Speaking in an interview, Group Village Headman Kanthawire explained that previously, many development activities failed to materialise because those responsible for implementing them were failing to work properly and the community did not take any steps to report the matter to relevant authorities.
He cited an example of his area, where one committee member misused funds that were collected from a maize mill, which was donated to Namboya area for supporting orphans. With the training the people had received from NICE, they realised that they could make the person pay back the funds, so that the maize mill continues to run.
“With the sensitisation that NICE did, we saw that it was our responsibility to ensure that the funds were recovered. Now, she is repaying the money and the maize mill is operational,” he said.
The chief said for a long time, people in his area and the whole of Luchenza did not understand that they have a role to play in making others accountable for the actions they take in relation to funds or development activities meant for the community.
“NICE has removed the veil of ignorance. Now we do not just sit and watch, but act,” added GVH Kanthawire.
The chief’s sentiments areshared by the Director of Planning and Development for the Council, who added that besides the maize mill issue, the community also took to task some school committee members in Luchenza Ward, where some people misappropriated money meant for the construction of a school block and the money is was paid back.
Kenneth Changadeya, Chairperson for Namboya Ward Committee, explained that besides issues concerning projects, people of Luchenza have also gained the courage to ask for explanations on anything they see going amiss.
He said people have assumed more responsibility to ensure that anything going wrong is addressed appropriately, regardless of whether it concerns a government employee, an elected leader or a community member, with a view to ensure that their area reverses the practice of people engaging in activities that deprive others of their rights as had been the case before.
NICE Area Civic Education Coordinator for Luchenza, Bester Maseko, explained that the civic education campaigns that NICE has run have empowered the people to know more about what they can do to avoid being sidelined on all issues affecting them.
“There was a case of a village which the council decided that they be given a piped waterproject. However, due to lack of understanding of the need for the project, the people refused to accept it and the project was withdrawn and implemented in another area. With the messages we gave them, they realised their mistake and later came back to the council asking for the project. This shows that people’s mindset is changing gradually because of the empowerment their receive,” said Maseko.
The Director of Planning and Development for Luchenza Municipal Council, John Maneya, hailed the efforts played by NICE in bringing about mindset change amongst the people.
He believes that an enlightened community is crucial to the social and economic development Luchenza and the whole country, hence he encourages NICE to continue the good work it has started, so that everybody understands the role they can play.