Likoma Island makes history with 4 wards in one constituency
Likoma island district has become the first to have four wards in one constituency after the Malawi Electoral Commission's announcement on Tuesday.
Malawi-Likoma island district has made history as the first district to have four wards in one constituency following the Malawi Electoral Commission's (MEC) announcement on Tuesday, writes Oliver Malibisa.
The announcement came after the electoral laws on local government elections were reviewed in 2014
According to the Malawi Local Government Act of 2014, every constituency is required to have two ward councillors.
However, the district of Likoma has been an exception due to its geographic terrain, which has divided it into the islands of Likoma and Chizumulu, making it difficult to implement community developments.
Election stakeholders have requested that MEC treat the two islands as separate constituencies to ensure equal treatment, considering there are two parliamentarians and four councillors on each island.
During a press conference on Tuesday, MEC Commissioner Dr. Anthony Mkumbwa stated that Likoma Island's population and land size preclude it from having two constituencies.
He explained that the law only permits the electoral body to take specific factors into account and make changes to allow for the creation of additional wards.
"The electoral laws of Malawi do not permit us to add constituencies, but we can revise ward demarcation after thorough consultations with key stakeholders, such as the Malawi Parliament, whose duty it is to approve any determinations,” he said.
In the meantime, MEC claimed that it had submitted its conclusions to Parliament for approval of its review exercise of constituency boundary demarcations, which had taken into account the requirement that Likoma and Chizumulu Islands have two ward councillors each and remain a single constituency.
In an interview with AfricaBrief, councillor for the current Likoma ward Ernest Gulu said that if Chizumulu and Likoma had been a constituency, each would have cited its terrain as a major barrier to the growth of a small island district.
"We won't stop until there are two constituencies on this island so that various development projects can be implemented successfully. Having two constituencies will address the mobility burden that officers bear when traveling between the islands, which will result in savings,” said Gulu.
According to the Population and Housing Census of 2018, the combined district and constituency of Likoma and Chizumulu Islands has a population of about 15,000 people, which is even less than one ward in constituencies of other districts, raising questions about whether the MEC can take it seriously.
Dr. Mkumbwa, the MEC commissioner, stated, "As you know, Likoma and Chizumulu's populations are still too small for two constituencies, and adding additional wards is a special recognition of similar factors as requested by the island people.”
MEC has confirmed that it will make a presentation to the Malawian Parliament asking them to approve adding four additional wards to the island constituency's existing two.
After the approval, Likoma and Chizumulu Islands Constituency will consist of four wards: Likoma East, Likoma West, Chizumulu South, and Chizumulu North. However, some political stakeholders are concerned that the new ward demarcations may cause chaos in implementing development projects.
The new mapping has divided Area Development Committees into two wards instead of maintaining them as a whole.
Golden Chikhanda, district governor for the Democratic Progressive Party, suggested that having one ward per ADC would be better.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has been touring districts this week to present reports on new constituency boundary demarcations and the establishment of constituency tally centres and polling centres.
St. Peter's Teacher Development Center has been selected as the new Constituency Tally Center for the Likoma Island district.