By Erah Pinifolo & Enock Naphazi, MEC Stringers
Electorates in Kasungu and Neno have commended the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust for organising public debates for parliamentary aspirants contesting in the May 21 tripartite elections, saying they are giving them a platform to hear different developmental agendas being promised by the candidates.
“We have several challenges in this constituency and I am happy that our MPs and councillors have noted them and it is our hope that once voted into power they will be able to address them,” said Willard Banda, a tobacco farmer in Traditional Authority Chambe’s headquarters in Kasungu.
Margret Phiri, a primary school teacher in the area, concurred with Banda saying the political debates are providing them an opportunity to grasp on how the aspirants will develop the constituency.
Kasungu’s NICE Trust district civic education officer, Gerald Chirwa said the aim of the debates is to give a chance to the constituents to elect a credible leader.
“The debates are also promoting tolerance among the contestants as the campaign period is in progress.
“Among other issues, the Code of Conduct the aspirants signed is discouraging hate speeches during the debates and the campaign period as we are promoting issue-based campaign,” Chirwa said.
NICE TRUST is expected to conduct the debates in aĺl constituencies in the district.
In Neno North, meanwhile, candidates contesting for the seat of parliamentarian signed a Social Agreement Contract with the community that they will fulfil whatever they have promised in their manifesto and made a pledge that they will manage development funds in a transparent and accountable manner.
The signing ceremony took place during the first parliamentary election debate in the district was facilitated by NICE officials in the presence of district commissioner, chiefs, ADC leaders and hundreds of people who came to grace the debate.
Neno’s NICE Trust district civic education officer, Walasi Kudzala said most of the members of the communities may have less information about candidates but by listening to their policy ideas, the debates have potential to change voters’ evaluation of contestants.
“What we are doing as NICE is creating a platform for the candidates to outline and sell their manifesto themselves to the community. This
helps to shift the election campaign from personality attacks, name-calling to an issue-based campaign process,” said Kudazala.
Group village head Chidakwani advised the candidates to conduct peaceful campaign and urged those who will not make it to accept the result and support the one who will win for the benefit of the constituency.
There were nine candidates who took part in the debate which outgoing MP Emmanuel Lonzo and UDF candidate Clement Mollande shunned.
The candidates focused more on problems of water, poor road infrastructures, bridges, inadequate education facilities and deforestation, which is a one of the major challenge in the whole Neno district where charcoal burning is a hot business.
The second debate is slated for April 16 in Neno South to be followed by other two ward councilors debates in Chilim’bondo and Ligowe.