The media is awash with stories of Lilongwe Mayor Councilor Dr. Desmond Bikoko. Following his resignation from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) a lot has been said immediately after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) received him at a colorful ceremony that was held at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe recently. MPHATSO LASTONE NKUONERA of Malawi News Agency (Mana) engages the mayor to explain his decision to dump MCP.
Q. What does your dumping of MCP and joining DPP mean, or how will that benefit Malawians?
A. I am development conscious and I had to make strategic decision in terms of development for the City of Lilongwe. Leaders must be visionary and bold to make the toughest decisions to get the results they want. With joint developmental efforts between Lilongwe City Council and Malawi Government we can get much more done.
Q. You gave a 10-point development plan when you assumed the position of Mayor last year. What have you done so far?
A. In my ten point plan which I called My City, My Vision I promised residents of Lilongwe to focus on ten key areas. In 10 months despite obvious challenges, we have achieved the following:
Review all city and drafting of new by-laws
Complete Auditing of the City Council Accounts for the past 10 years
Gazzeting the New Lilongwe Master Plan and Development of the Successor Lilongwe City Development Strategy (2016-2022)
Street Lighting and the Lumbadzi sewer Rehabilitation projects
Keep Lilongwe City Clean and Green campaign. We are launching the campaign on 1st December 2017
Promote partnership with government institutions and outsourcing of some services where council lacks capacity. We have completed the adopt a street program and signed an MOU with Director of Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety services in enforcing traffic bylaws
Functional Review in order to harmonize organizational structures
Q. How was it like to work as Mayor but under opposition political party, MCP?
A. Nothing has changed. Early into my tenure I made the decisions to sit down with all key stakeholders including politicians. Challenges came from within where I faced a lot of resistance but government stepped in to assist and some staff members were removed from the system.
Q. What promises has the DPP made to you as Mayor?
A. The DPP government has been undertaking a number of projects within the city and I made the decision to approach them so we could partner. What is good for Lilongwe is good for Bikoko and all the residents. The DPP led government priority is to transform Lilongwe into a world class city and they have promised to work with Lilongwe City Council to realize the transformational dream.
Q. MCP is saying there is nothing DPP should celebrate about your joining because you are not such an influential figure in politics. What’s your take?
A. I have not seen such statements from the MCP leadership of Dr. Chakwera whom I have a lot of respect. Only his views and that of the Speaker will matter to me and no one else. What I have seen is name calling from facebook unpatriotic attention seekers including the so called activists who will not lift a fingure to develop this nation but would rather spend an entire day on facebook looking for faults in others. They have called me a mere councilor and none entity figure. I found it all amusing and if indeed true that I am not influential figure, why has social media flooded with Bikoko buzz? Their opinion of me is a true reflection of who they really are. A lion does not lose sleep over the opinion of a sheep.
Q. How will you work with a council that is hugely dominated by MCP councilors who regarded you as a father and now you have dumped them?
A. I have not dumped anyone. My relationship with all councilors remains intact. The council is evenly divided but bipartisan. The only change is that I am now a DPP Mayor and my loyalty is to His Excellency the President and his government. It is therefore my duty to support his agenda for Lilongwe and Malawi. What is important for me now is moving own with the work residents of Lilongwe expect from their elected representative.
Q. What do you say to assertions that you left MCP because you were frustrated because of lack of recognition from the party?
A. It is true that some members of MCP were militant but I never sought special recognition from MCP. In January after becoming Mayor, I met with Dr. Chakwera at his residence and put it to him that as Mayor, I would have to work with government and he fully understood. Since then, I have stayed away from most MCP political rallies. If I was seeking special recognition, I would have used my status as Mayor to appear at every rally Dr. Chakwera held. Again this goes to tell you how ignorant those who make such assertions are. The problem is that we tend to believe much of the junk we read from social media.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA