It wasn’t that bad. Not so?
I mean, the shooting to death by police two—or was it four?—armed robbers that wanted to do to Puma Filling Station in Lilongwe what their colleagues did to First Merchant Bank (FMB) in Blantyre.
But there was one, fine detail that caught my attention: the nationalities of these armed robbers. We are told of the four, one was Malawian and the three—imagine!—were Mozambicans.
The picture of three Mozambicans docking into our shores to terrorise our beautiful nation, Honourable Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Paul Chibingu, is a story that revoked memories of my experiences last year, at Songwe and Mchinji boarders.
These borders, I noted, are more interested in travellers with cargo than seemingly plain travellers—those with small back packs and a smart phone.
That is why, if you critically examine our borders, they are almost covered by white and blue of Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officers than the fading white and blue of officials from the Department of Immigration.
The picturesque of these two institutions, again, tells a story. Department of Immigration offices look pale, old and poor due lack of renovation. The MRA ones look modern, classy and illuminating. Ndunama?
The point is: managing borders is the job, mostly, of the Department of Immigration to check the kind of people—with cargo or not—going out or coming into the country.
However, what is happening at our borders is that we are more interested in generating government revenue from travellers with cargo than inspecting a lone bag packer with a smart phone who might be a security threat to the country.
There were four of us going to Chipata, Zambia, through Mchinji. We all had our passports, but none from MRA and immigration officers at the Mchinji and Chipata borders dared to question us as we casually walked past them.
While coming back, one of our friends bought some noticeable goods and he, alone, was squeezed left, right and centre by MRA officials from both sides. We watched him from afar making payments and signing documents. With smart phones in our hands and bags on our backs, we could only feel sorry for our friend.
But what, I begun some self introspection, if I were an armed robber? Would Chipata have been safe? Or what if some armed robber from Zambia thought of, in a casual fashion such as ours, getting through Mchinji to Malawi to terrorise Lilongwe? Would they get intercepted by our cargo-friendly officials at our borders?
Our unquestioned appetite to generate enough revenue to support our budget is, to a larger extent, compromising security issues at the country’s borders. Every day, we are indirectly aiding the entry of dangerous people that connive with locals and their unions are the ones terrorising our cities.
The major cause, I can testify, is that we do not have a larger presence of Immigration officers at our borders.
We can all, in anger not analysis, condemn the immigration officers with the usual sin of corruption. But I believe it is not just corruption into play here. I am told we only have 600 trained Immigration officers in the country. This 600 covers even the top and middle managers in the offices.
Come on, how then, can we ably cover our borders?
Unarguably, in the fight against crime—something the police is telling us that the rate, this year, has been reduced—we need both: short and long term strategies.
I commend our police, as part of short term strategy, for rising up to the challenge. However, in the pursuit of a long term strategy, honourable minister, we need to channel enough energy to the Immigration Department.
We are recruiting too few to this important department. Somehow, the question of corruption comes in because they are few making them to be on high demand. We need more of them so that demand is lower than supply.
Otherwise, it is my submission that if we continue fighting crime by just concentrating on patrols and tracking down those on wanted lists without the immigration’s strengthened hand at the borders post, we will always be caught in circles of insecurity.