On July 13 2013, Zhou Feng, 48, who started his business in 2004, was shot dead in the course of chasing robbers who had stolen money from his factory.
Zhou—was a Chinese investor who owned a cooking oil plant at Mapanga, Blantyre, a factory that employs Malawians, pays taxes to government, and simply put, contributes to the country’s economy.
Speaking at his cremation last week, Chinese Embassy director of consular services Zhou Baoguo did not specifically deplore the shooting of his countryman, rather he deplored deeper concerns about what he termed ‘rising insecurity in Malawi’.
In May this year, for instance, President Joyce Banda ordered a 24-hour police security to Daeyang Luke Hospital in Lilongwe after officials had complained to her about losing millions of kwacha to robbers.
Without detailed statistics, it is difficult to term these instances as potent cases of rising insecurity in the country. Thus Minister of Home Affairs Uladi Mussa could be forgiven for dismissing assertions that the country’s security is getting compromised, arguing; “People should not generalise isolated incidents.”
However, when robbers shoot dead a member of the investor’s community just few months after the President made a powerful speech in Brussels, Germany, wooing investors; just few months after the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) launched a website to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), there is every reason for Malawians to be worried.
Government—well aware that FDI is a critical source of capital and employment in a country with high unemployment rate—has been trying to weave policies aimed at courting investors.
With Mitc statistics showing that insufficient job opportunities are the result of inadequate levels of investment, both foreign and local, the case for FDI, then, is unarguable.
That is why, according to Wiskes Nkombezi, spokesperson for the Ministry ofIndustry and Trade, currently there is a delegation of Indian investors under the auspices of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
“Malawi will showcase to these investors potential areas for investment, one of which is the textile and garments sector. The same has been done at regional exhibitions in Comesa, Sadc and other fora. Mitc also prepares brochures and DVDs that show Malawi’s potential areas where investors can invest and textiles and garments features as one of those areas,” he said.
According to a 2007 study titled The Impact of Foreign Direct Investment on Development: Policy Challenges for Malawi by Pilirani Kazembe and Nenauthe Namizinga, Malawi is a good investment destination since the crime rate in the country is not very high compared to other countries. But the recent stories of robbers shooting investors dead do not paint a rosy national picture.
Security, they argue, is one critical factor every sane investor considers with detail before flashing their briefcases.
This is why, in his eulogy, Zhou Baoguo underlined the call to the “Malawi Police to protect all Malawians, not just the Chinese nationals”.
The problem, however, is that when there are cases of rising insecurity, it is easy to blame the police for being inefficient. In fact, with research studies condemning the police as the corrupt, it is difficult not to blame them.
But there is more to the police’s failure to combat crime than inefficiency and corruption. One such is the untold story of the dwindling funding the police is getting from central government to run its operations.
Take Blantyre Police Station for instance.
Last week, Blantyre Police Station officer Denis Katuya said his station, in the 2013/2014 budget, is getting K2 million per month for its operations, which includes the running of four other substations and seven police units under it.
“We made a budget estimate of K8 million to K10 million per month and submitted it to Southern Region Police Headquarters and then to National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe, but we only got K2 million, instead,” he said.
He added that each substation and unit is allocated 30 litres of fuel, which translates to one litre per day to run Toyota Land Cruiser pickups for general duties.
“How do you expect us to curb crime? You talk of corruption in police, but have you stopped to ask yourself the cause? There is no motivation and salaries are too low,” Misheck Munthali, a civilian who chairs the road safety subcommittee under Blantyre Police, told The Nation last week.
Munthali raised these questions to some members of Parliament of Blantyre District at a meeting where police officers met civilians involved in community policing to discuss security matters in Blantyre.
“How do you expect us to run these substations and police units with a meagre K2 million? From that, each substation, such as Ndirande, is allocated 30 litres of fuel per month, meaning it is expected to use a litre per day. How is that possible?” he said.
The tragedy of this is that it comes at a time when the police are implementing the Ndakuona Helpline—which is a rapid police response to suspected crime, similar to 997. To be effective, all these initiatives demand more resources.
It is very easy to understand Munthali’s concerns—something shared by many in the country.
Authorities explain such drastic budget cuts as a response to dwindling resources. After all, even critical sectors such as health have also been hit with budget cuts, something that has riled a number of activists in the sector.
However, the paradox of such voices lies in how government cuts budgetary allocations to public security—which is quite critical in wooing investors in the country—and allocates K3 billion to State House with K604 million and K339 million the President’s external and internal travels.
This, according to Michael Jana, a political analyst, questions government’s commitment of wooing investors.
“Resources will never be enough. That is why we have key priority areas in our development plans.
“Now when you have a situation where some key priority areas are facing serious budget cuts and other sectors outside the key priority areas have their budget increased, it really becomes surprising,” he says.