This is pathetic, to say the least. It does not have to come this. It just shows people are unhappy with the way government is handling people’s grievances.
For a long time, we have all condemned mob justice as a way of punishing suspects. Once arrested suspects ought to be brought to a court of law and not administer ‘justice’ on them on the spot. But this is now a tired song. Instead of seeing an improvement, the opposite is true. This week, the law enforcers joined the fray. They killed two suspected ‘dangerous’ thieves in Lilongwe. Isn’t this mob justice? Are the police not supposed to shoot to incapacitate the suspects and take them to a law court? I may not be very conversant with how far the police can go in enforcing law and order. But last time I checked I learnt that police are not supposed to kill suspects. In short, mob justice is a no-confidence vote in the administration of justice on perpetrators of lawlessness.
This no-confidence vote has now spread its tentacles to other areas of government. In Salima, irate villagers this past week sealed several government offices in a bid to force government to dethrone senior chief Bibi Kuluunda accusing her of corruption and nepotism. In Neno, staff sealed the district commissioner’s office for non-payment of their salaries for three months. Why have they not been paid salaries for three months, if I may ask?
In Lilongwe, staff last week sealed offices for the city council’s directors of engineering services and finance. I can’t remember the exact grievances for their action, suffice to say it is also a labour relations issue.
In Karonga, chiefs petitioned the secretary for Local Government renewing their call for the removal of the district commissioner and some officials in his office. They are accused of undermining the local leaders by, among other things, failing to provide them transport to and from council meetings and failing to pay them their honorarium. Again, while chiefs and councillors are not employees of the district commissioner’s office, their complaint borders on labour relations.
Amid these demands, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development this week transferred eight district commissioners and several directors.
In all the above issues, the crux of the matter is that people feel their concerns are not being dealt with to their satisfaction and with the urgency they deserve. People feel belittled and unjustly treated and government is paying a deaf ear to their problems.
Last week, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) presented a number of social economic concerns to President Peter Mutharika and gave him what sounded like a deadline to deal with the issues. The meeting ended in a deadlock with the President insisting that he does not take deadlines. How far PAC can go in pushing the President to deal with the concerns remains to be seen, but the writing is on the wall that there are problems that need to be acted upon.
On April 14, 2016 the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) gave the government up to May 9 to resolve their grievances or face a nationwide sit-in by all primary and secondary school teachers. The teachers are demanding that the Minister of Education should retract a statement he made that the ministry had withdrawn the 2013 promotion of primary school teachers to Grade TJ (PT2) because of their failure to report to their new duty stations. Ministry officials this week told TUM, the minister will not retract the statement. TUM also faulted the ministry for failing to provide transport to the promoted teachers and ferry them to their new duty stations; failing to come up with the exact date for payment of salary arrears for primary school teachers, salary adjustments for those promoted in 2013 and leave grants.
TUM’s ultimatum came fast on the heels of a sit-in by Polytechnic lecturers who were demanding a pay rise. After discussions the lecturers discontinued the sit-in. Both of these are labour relations issues. And May 9 is only next week. Soon standard eight pupils will start writing their examinations to be followed by Malawi School Certificate Examinations and then Junior Certificate examinations. Will the ministry budge or it will apply the same tricks it used to deflate the Polytechnic lecturers?
Government may have succeeded in stopping the Polytechnic sit-in but all these are worrying developments. They are a tell-tale sign of a ticking time bomb and government should find a lasting solution to the problems. It does not have to get ultimatums to act.
And to rub salt into a festering wound, the Kwacha is once again slipping instead of gaining following the opening of tobacco market. This is a worrying trend because it will trigger inflation. And that is more trouble for government.