Recently, the media reported cases of vandalism and theft at the newly-built Bingu Stadium in Lilongwe. It is reported that the theft is not new and has left the stadium dilapidated needing a lot of money to replace stolen items. This is a new stadium that has not been opened but now needs repairs. Is this not a setback?
Since the dawn of multiparty democracy in 1994 there has been a gradual decrease in the respect of public property by the citizenry.
Reports of vandalism or theft of public property has been on the increase in recent years. For example, Blantyre City Council has complained of theft of sewer pipes in the Mudi River that has exacerbated the levels of sewage pollution in this river. City street lights have been vandalised in the past few years which has led to blackouts in the streets of Blantyre City for some time now.
It is unfortunate that such cases are not reported to authorities often. Indeed, there have not been records of successful prosecution of such thieves as far as I can recall. The Blantyre City Council bemoans vandalism as one of the drawbacks in efficient service delivery in the city.
Vandalism costs a lot to the tax payers and all citizens. Replacing public facilities which have just been newly installed is costly bearing in mind that most of these are built or installed from government loans. Such loans are to be paid for by the citizens, mostly in the future.
In recent years, we also saw the vandalism and theft of telephone cables belonging to Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL). This led to breakdown in communication in the country. People were failing to use their MTL phones and internet connection was greatly affected. Some lost businesses and opportunities due to the telecommunication services outage.
Lack of telecommunication means one cannot call for an ambulance in case of emergency thereby leading to death. Failure in telecommunication means one cannot call the police in case of an urgent need for help. There are indeed many aspects that we need to know and act responsibly as citizens about vandalism.
Cases of vandalism are almost everywhere in our communities. Even in villages, boreholes are being vandalised. We have a number of cases where there are non-functional boreholes because of theft and vandalism. In Blantyre Rural, for example, a number of boreholes are not functioning after thieves stole pumps and metals.
Who has the responsibility of stopping vandalism and theft of public property?
It is every citizen who witnesses it. These stolen materials end up in our markets and workshops. Vandalism can only end if cases of vandalism are reported and dealt with. We have many cases of vandalism dragging in our courts.
Malawians need to take responsibility of public property and treat it as their own. More importantly, our public officials and politicians need to lead by example and stop looting public resources.
We, as citizens, need to say no to vandalism and theft of public property! Government, political leaders and community leaders must join hands to end this behaviour which is taking our country backwards. The police should work with communities in apprehending perpetrators of vandalism.
It is our responsibility to report any suspicious material or equipment suspected to be public property being sold or used in our communities. Local leaders should take a role of civic educating our communities.
Politicians should take a break from politicking and start educating people on the need to respect public property for the greater good of all citizens. Public property benefits everyone regardless of political affiliations. It starts with you to say no to vandalism! n