I would like to start off the year with commenting on three stories that came up in the final days of 2014. The first was on the fracas by inmates and death of one of them at Zomba Central Hospital. The second story is on the contagious and epidemic industrial strikes that have been going in within several public service institutions. The third story is on the excitement by the public on the declaration of assets by public officers.
In the first story, it was reported that authorities organised a search within Zomba Central Prison. Things went on well until the search reached the condemned cells zone. This is when trouble emerged and the situation became nasty. One inmate died within the same time and there was concern he may have died as a result of the fracas and the violence. A prison official, however, disputed this and suggested something like this: “You know this is not true. The person who died was HIV positive. He was on antiretroviral treatment. The medical records show that the person was on HIV treatment.”
When I read the report supposedly from the prison authorities, I thought, “my goodness”. What then if an individual is HIV infected? What then if a person is on HIV treatment? Does it then mean that they should die during a search? Does it mean that when they die we should accept it as expected? I would have loved if the prison official had said something like: “Every death within prison attracts an investigation. This is no exception. The coroner has been informed and we will soon get the report. But as far as we are concerned, we do not, as yet, believe there was any foul play. The definite answer, however, as the law requires, will come from a thorough investigation as per dictates of the law.”
I will go now to the second story. The industrial strikes happening at the anti-corruption bureau (ACB), University of Malawi (Unima) and judiciary. It came as a surprise to many to learn that the employer is not obliged to pay any salaries when employees withdraw labour. The workers’ unions that are behind the strikes have the responsibility to find resources and pay its members which it has influenced to withdraw labour. Very interesting! This calls for unions to start thinking of collecting membership fees and invest these monies. The unions should consider having income-generating activities which they can consistently draw from to pay the salaries when the employer withholds labour.
The third story is on the declaration of assets by public officers. Reading through the goings on of this office was interesting and exciting. Soon we would know who had adhered to the edits from Chris Tukula and who had not. We would soon know who will be sanctioned by non-disclosure. We would know how much so and so has as assets. Until of course I learned that I was on the list of individuals who should declare my assets. Then it stopped being funny anymore….