Malawi parliament dedicates support to Federation

by James Tayler


pictured above: The Malawian federation after its presentation to the Malawian Parliament on 14 May.

By Wonderful Hunga, CCODE Malawi

The Malawi Federation met the Budget Committee of the Malawi National Assembly on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at the New Parliament Building in Lilongwe. Apart from introducing itself to the legislators, the Federation lobbied for inclusion of financial support for the low income housing programmes in this years national budget.

The Federation journey to Parliament began almost five years ago through exchange visits that exposed the Malawian Ministry of Lands and Housing to the growing need to support low income housing and shelter initiatives. While top Ministers have changed — since the first trip with Bazuka Mhango in May 2006, five other Ministers including the current one Bande have been involved — the strategy never changed. Exchange visits were still arranged for the Malawi government officials and facilitated by SDI.

Then there was a growing recognition by the Ministry to introduce a housing finance mechanism for the low income households. However, the question remained how that could be done?

In October 2010, there was another exchange to Namibia. It was time to learn how housing initiatives by the poor could be supported. The Malawi delegation, which included, the Minister of Lands, housing and urban development, the director of budgets in the Treasury and other government officials learnt how the government of Namibia supports directly supports low income housing initiatives.

One of the fruits of this eye-opening trip to Namibia was the drawing up of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Malawi and SDI. The MoU ignited a serious of discussions between CCODE, the support NGO for the Malawi Federation, on how the Namibian experience could be replicated in the country. Meetings continue to be held and one of the successes so far is that the parties are close to finalising modalities on disbursement of funds.

However approval from Parliament was required in order for the Ministry of lands, housing, and urban development to support the processes of the federation through the National Budget. Immediately the budget and finance committee of the National assembly came into the picture.

So when it was time for the 23rd Session of the Governing Council of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT GC 23), the Ministry of lands, housing and development, John Bande, MP, requested Hon. Ralph Juma to visit the council in Nairobi Nairobi. Hon. Juma is the chairperson of the budget and finance committee.

The Budget Committee is one of the most powerful parliamentary committees in the Malawi National assembly. The committee is responsible for overseeing the formulation and passing of the national budget. Among other successes, the committee championed the inclusion of hardship allowances for teachers in remote areas of the country.

Hon. Juma learned about the Federation processes in Malawi, and a meeting was facilitated for the Federation, CCODE and the budget and finance committee.

“Where we are now, we are pressed with a huge demand to support shelter initiatives across the country and we are overwhelmed.  We need budgetary support. It is time for government to take part in alleviating the housing problem in the country,” explained Mphatso Njunga, a Malawi Federation national leader, in her presentation to the committee.

When the turn came for the budget and finance committee chairperson, Ralph Juma, MP, to speak, the meeting exploded with joy.  “What I can assure you is that we are behind you and we will ensure that you get this support just make sure that you finalise on the modalities with the Ministry of Lands,” said Hon. Juma.

CCODE and the Federation are already working on the modalities on the disbursement of the funds with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The modalities have so far been drawn with a few legal hitches to be sorted out.  According to the draft modalities, the Federation would access the funds through the Ministry’s vote.

“Maybe we would be worried that the budget formulation process is at an advanced stage before the modalities are agreed on and a contract signed. In any case we will still have the allocation under contingencies to ensure that you still have the funds once all is done,” the Budget and finance committee chair further assured the Federation amid handclapping.

According to an official statement from the Malawi National Assembly the budget meeting will open on May 23, 2011.

This is the first time the Malawi Alliance has engaged the committee. The engagement process showcases the power of exchange visits in bringing change at policy level.