Malawi Prison Service (MPS) chief commissioner Grace Wandika Phiri had a rude awakening yesterday when junior officers snubbed her attempts to address them following a sit-in they had embarked on.
Prison warders started a nationwide sit-in yesterday to press for promotions, general welfare and their inclusion in the National Response to Coronavirus.
According to our sources, Phiri yesterday attempted to address junior officers at the maximum security Zomba Central Prison following a letter her office issued summoning representatives of the staff to a meeting, but they chased her. She later drove to Lilongwe where she was again snubbed.
In Lilongwe, warders threw stones at senior officers who sat few metres away from the main entrance.
However, they shared responsibilities among themselves to prevent prisoners from escaping.
In the Northern Region, junior officers from Mzuzu, Rumphi, Nkhata Bay and Mzimba prisons joined the strike, demanding promotions government promised them last April following promotions in the Malawi Police Service.
Prisons spokesperson Chimwemwe Shaba confirmed the development, saying the warders were not corporative to let the Chief Commissioner update them on the strides management has made in addressing their grievances.
He said: “If they continue with the strike beyond the weekend, management will take any necessary measure to address the situation.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi declined to comment on the issue, saying he was yet to be briefed on what transpired in the prisons.
In Blantyre, Chichiri Prison warders threatened to open prison gates to free inmates if government fails to address their grievances.
The officers expressed their disappointment on how government treats MPS, especially through Ministry of Homeland Security.
“We would like to understand why we are treated differently from our fellow national security agencies like the Immigration and the Malawi Police Service.
“I mean, just look at how the ministry has allocated some funds for the fight against Covid-19 pandemic. While the two arms were allocated fat cheques, we did not get any. This is never about the money, but our safety; our welfare. It is like we work in a different country from our colleagues and it is not fair,” said one of the officers.
While government allocated funds to Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service and Immigration Department from the National Response to Coronavirus, they were sidelined, a development that irked the officers and triggered the strike.