The inspiration for this article came in the afternoon of January 28 2016. I was coming from my workplace going elsewhere. It was about 3pm and I had a time challenge as I needed to be where I was going by the dot.
Well, I ended up not arriving where I was going in time. The reason was that I was stopped by police who were clearing the roads for some important person to pass. When such things happen, previously I have gone to the police officer and asked them what was going on. Often the police take it as if I am challenging them. But this is not so. It is just the spirit of access to information that I have. I want to know why I am being stopped. Such information is vital, vital in a sense that I need to figure out whether I should wait, turn back or go and pack the car and go and have a meal somewhere instead of just waiting in the car.
If there was anything that the Presidency, and by this I mean both the Vice-President and the ‘real’ President, would benefit from knowing is that their travel in and around town inconveniences thousands. I am not arrogant and disrespectful to think that they should never be some decor and security considerations for the President and his second in command. We need to give them way at all times they want it, but the waiting that we need to do is oftentimes excessive. One of the worst things that happen to any citizen in this country, on top of the hunger and the depreciation of the currency, is to be going to or coming from Lilongwe or anywhere else when the President is using the same road at the same time as you would want. People must wait for more than an hour because the police are concerned with the President’s security.
I was tempted to think this is one area that also needs “public sector reforms”. We should not just have Blantyre Water Board and Northern Region Water Board outlining their reforms. We also need the colleagues who have the duty to protect the President and the Vice-President to outline how to streamline the transport and travel. Having 25 vehicles on the convoy is not public sector reform. Having citizens do nothing waiting by the roadside because a VIP [very important person] is passing by is not public sector reform. It hurts many people more than it serves the interests of a few. Can these changes be done? “Tighten up your belts”. This is the advice people give others while they are feasting. “No international travel”. And they say this when they have just bought airtickets themselves. “Hard work is divine”, so they say, when they themselves are in bed rolling over from side to side. I can live with 30 minutes of waiting, but not hours.
Someone was asking me when I have the time to think about the things that I write. Well, there are many opportunities, one of which is when I have to stand by the roadside waiting for a VIP to pass. n