The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has called on authorities to act swiftly following reports of massive corruption in district councils and other local government structures.
Chikhwawa CCJP’s Diocesan Secretary, Lewis Msiyadungu made the remarks on Monday when his organization held talks with traditional leaders as well as religious leaders on the findings of a project called ‘Enhancing Women Active Citizenship Participation and their Economic Empowerment’ implemented under Senior Chief Chapananga in the district.
The findings revealed that relief items meant for distribution were being used by traditional leaders and others workers to steal from villagers or abuse them.
It was revealed that most people were asked to contribute money ranging from K50 to K200 and more if they were to be considered in the registration process whilst women were asked to offer sex if they didn’t have required money, something which officials from CCJP said was uncalled for.
Said Msiyadungu: “It’s sad that these practices are happening in the local structures at the village level and group village level and it’s involving developmental issues. For example people are asked to pay something for them to be registered for public works programs. We are concerned that the duty bearers that are supposed to protect the vulnerable people like women and girls are at the forefront promoting such kind of things.
“I think it’s also coupled with illiteracy levels and also lack of understanding of the traditional leaders that these government development programs are for the most vulnerable people who are supposed to be protected by them and yet they are exploiting them but I think the other way we are looking at is the duty of the rights holders to report such cases to relevant authorities,” he said.
He indicated that his office will take up the issues to report to relevant bodies especially the Area Development Committee (ADC) so that they start taking action in such issues.
On cultural practices that were said to have negatively impacted on the communities like the initialization camps and the Gule Wamkulu which were held during school time, Msiyadungu said his office believe that cultural practices were there to enrich culture but what was being practiced in the area put people especially the vulnerable women and children at a very high disadvantage.
“It is very sad that at a time we embrace our cultural practices here, we are told two women were assaulted by the Gule wamkulu for the reason that they wanted to teach them manners. The women instead of pursuing with the case, they withdrew it. This is a very sad development and must be condoned at all cost,” he added.
The Diocesan Secretary further said that the three year project which his office is implementing in the area will continue for the remaining two years to empower the communities as its major goal is to empower women and girls – who are most vulnerable to such kind of malpractices – to report such kind of cases.
“We will continue empowering these vulnerable people so that they know their rights and report to relevant authorities when abused. And we want to take duty bearers to task so that they should not exploit these vulnerable women and children,” said Msiyadungu.
On his part, Traditional Authority Chapananga said he was aware of the issue that some village headmen and other group village headmen were soliciting money from the people in order to favour them in various developmental programs.
He said will call for the Area Development Committee meeting any time soon so as to address the issues at the same time he will quickly deal with those involved in the malpractices so as to bring sanity in his area.
CCJP is implementing the activities with support from the Danish Church Aid.