Sunday, April 12, 2015

When Crime controllers become Perpetrators: What? Why? And way forward?

Malawi police on duty

It is around 12 midnight. Work has been exhausting and so you’re tired.  And, you decide: “I want to have a peaceful sleep tonight.” So you sleep like a baby…feeling all good and secure. But hey, don’t sleep that babyishly; it’s a mistake, a very grave mistake.

Why a mistake? Perhaps you’ve not been following events. There are verified stories going around that the people we entrusted with controlling crimes—the police—are themselves perpetrators of crime.

The glaring statistics in The Nation of 10th April, 2015 that, on average, two police officers in Malawi are involved in organized crime is both a big minus and a ghastly dent on the Malawi Police Services. To us Malawians, these statistics are a great concern so much so that every passing second, as day gives way to night, anxiety creeps in our minds as we are not sure of the safety and security of our valuable property or our dear life.


Certainly, the police officers’ involvement in organized crime is, as pointed out elsewhere here, of great concern. That be case, however, it is important to understand the police officers’ drive towards such uncalled for behavior. Is it the case that the recruitment process is flawed? Or it is the case that there is a genuine need for mindset change. The answer to both questions are both “yes’ and “no”.

“Yes” in the sense that there are cases where there have been allegations that the recruitment process is almost entirely guided by “who-knows-who” criterion resulting in picking underserving individuals for the noble job. This could be an explanation why we have unprofessional police officers who usually incapable of making quick and positive context-specific decisions for they have no academic qualifications—a Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) to be precise—necessary for such capability. There is also the possibility, a real one for that matter, that the recruitment may not be a cause for the police officers’ involvement in crime because the number of bad apples in the MPS is just outrageously large for a public institution.

It might also be that there is need to change the mindset of police officers towards their job as rightly observed by some commentators. Yet still, police officers’ perceived mindset problem does not seem to give the whole picture.

What then is the real cause? Most undoubtedly, the real cause is under-appreciation. Without mincing words, the Malawi police officers are under-appreciated left, right, and center. The uncomfortable truth is that our crime controllers get peanuts as salary, live in small and sub-standard houses (and they usually make sorry extensions), and get looked down upon by the public.

And way forward?

Interestingly, recruitment and mindset might be, and of course are, some of the causes of police officers’ involvement in the perpetration of organized crime. It therefore rightly follows that paying serious attention to these elements is not only just proper but also a must-do. Though, truth be spelt out here, the deliberate initiation of measures intended to improve the welfare of police officers is the way forward out of this security disaster, if not the only way.

Malawi needs police officers who get paid a modest salary; it needs police officers whose houses are decent enough for a police officer; Malawi needs police officers who get appreciation for the noble roles they play in society. Police officers too are people with wants, and, however dignified or professional they may be, they will always make efforts to get what they want, legally or otherwise. Simple logic should tell anyone that rules of survival hates a man that stays hungry among plenty. So why not develop and implement measures that aim at helping our dear police officers get their wants in life in a way that accords with the law?

The suggestions made by some quarters of the society that the solution to police officers’ involvement in organized crime lies in instilling a sense of service in them to work professionally under the poor conditions they are in is wholly precarious at best and nauseatingly cosmetic at worst. Like already observed above, the improvement of the police officers’ welfare is the surefire way out.

It is a common understanding among any people that the deterioration of security is not only worrisome but also a cause for concern for insecurity is the enemy of progress. It thus becomes unbearably worrisome if the perpetrators of the insecurity are the same people we put our trust on for security. That’s why this security disaster needs an urgent solution that more now than now.

Up until such time a solution is found to address the police-perpetrated insecurity Malawians have two options; go to prison or trust no one no matter their nobility. For Tony Robbins says: “If you want security, go to prison.” And for the second option, Willa Cather opines: “No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person.” Malawians, choose your option now.

Not Gentle Enough: Critiquing Ntata’s Criticism

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Frank A. Clark.

MANY a person can critique and thus be called a critic. However, the sad truth is that not all that critique merit to be called such; in fact, it is only those whose criticisms are gentle enough by presenting a balanced dimension of the issue in question merit such a label.

There recently emerged a critic of the Peter Mutharika government—Z Allan Ntata, a (or is it former?) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sympathizer. Ntata, a lawyer-cum-politician, has attacked the DPP-led government from all angles, and, so it appears, the Mutharika government is at his mercy at the moment. Central to Ntata’s attack is Peter Mutharika’s supposed ‘puppetry’. It is to this that the article’s attention turns.

In essence, Ntata accuses Peter Mutharika of being a nominal president arguing that real power rests in unnamed State House advisor. That the young Mutharika is indeed a puppet or not should be left to the politicians to politick and to the lawyers to lawyer on; for us critics, and this be emphasized, the concern here is whether or not Ntata’s accusations are gentle enough.

Are Ntata’s accusations of Mutharika’s supposed puppetry gentle enough? It appears not. Ntata was himself in the remote and recent past a puppet of the current president especially in the run up to the general election. Ntata, as Tenthani rightly observes, “…used any available art form—be it music, video or prose—to beat up all those who stood in the way of his dear party’s one-way ticket back to state house.” And who was the torchbearer for his dear party? Peter Mutharika of course!

Then Ntata did not flinch in defending Peter Mutharika as a visionary leader with solid education background. He had been a staunch defender of Mutharika’s leadership potential all through the campaign period till the sweet days of the election victory. Ntata was the right hand man in the DPP, and a strategist to boot. Should we say, honestly that is, that Ntata, by his puppetry accusation, is simply confessing to Malawians that he did not know that he was defending a Mutharika who is incapable of controlling the affairs of this noble republic on his own volition and direction? The answer is most certainly negative. Ntata knew Mutharika that well, as a strategist, that he was a man worth the Malawi presidency. If he actually knew of Mutharika’s puppetry, then Ntata is nothing but an unpatriotic liar who let Malawians be in the hands of a puppet.

But if he really knew Peter Mutharika as a capable man for the presidency then, why accuse him of being a puppet of some unelected advisor today? Frustration; yes, the answer is Ntata is frustrated to the core for not being ‘accordingly’ rewarded by the DPP government. Surely, Ntata is on a mission—a mission he has betted his life on—to prove to the Mutharika camp that he is a strategist who makes and breaks what he makes. For he made (read ‘helped with’) the DPP-led government’s entry strategy he would equally make its exit strategy, and the puppetry accusation and all that jazz are sure evidence of the exit strategy in motion. Here Ntata, as Chiipira Wachaje points, is a “Commando” in action. Unlike the Commandos in films however, the Commandos in politics rarely succeed in aiming high-value targets, and truth be told here, this Commando that is Ntata here will, spoiler alert, miserably fail in his aiming for high-value target that is Mutharika.

And why will Comando Ntata fail here? It’s because it is all clear to almost every well-meaning Malawian that he is making this noise simply to be heard by the DPP government. It therefore makes perfect sense to take such a person and their statements with a pinch of salt. In all honesty, Malawians are not that na├»ve as to fail to realize that he is deliberately arousing public discontentment to get back at DPP.

In the end, however, there are two alternatives; either Ntata did not know that Mutharika is a puppet and is therefore telling the truth or knew that Mutharika is/ isn’t a puppet and is therefore telling lies. Between the two, the latter seems plausible because, being a strategist that he is, Ntata ought to have known that Mutharika is a puppet. But he did not notice the puppetry in Mutharika because Mutharika is not a puppet. Which is why it is tempting to conclude, as does this article, that Ntata wants to get back at his erstwhile friends—the DPP. So, whatever it is he thinks DPP owns him, he shouldn’t drag Malawians into fighting his personal battles.

So next time Ntata, and all other critics, want to criticize this or any government—present or past, let them do justice to Frank A. Clark by making sure that their criticisms, like rain, are “gentle enough” to aid citizens’ objective assessment without destroying the same. Otherwise Ntata’s criticisms of DPP-led government are not doing Malawians any justice as are personal and not gentle enough as to nourish Malawians’ objective assessment of the government of the day.



If Only We Saw Albinos Humans They Really Are

A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members—Mahatma Gandhi
A society founded on ill principles of life is doomed; that built on blatant disregard for decency is crooked; and that whose survival depends on the sacrifice of innocent souls’ freedom is jinxed.
It appears, from simple observations of life, that nature favors the upright—those that have the strength to create a life for others as good as their own; those that have the decency to bring honor where some seem to rob it; and those that have the moral compass to use their power as though they are powerless themselves.
Given the above, it is no surprise then that those societies where a larger part of their daily life is premised on such simple but profoundly important notions of life have witnessed, are witnessing, and will expectedly continue to witness the unparalleled progress and favors that Mother Nature bestow upon them. The success of a modern society is thus rigged in favor of those societies whose citizens attach as much regard to others as they attach to themselves.
It is at this point that we should start question whether Malawi society can or—for decency’s sake—will join our friends in achieving progress as a result of the respect for basic human rights and civil liberties for all of its citizens. It is here that we need to take stock of our treatment to one of the emerging weak members of our society—the albinos. Recent instances of albino stigmatization are a worrisome blemish in our society. That’s why we need as a nation to take a strong legal and social concern against our indecent treatment of our fellow citizens who are differently-blessed in skin color.
As rightly observed by the Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati, our society’s culture of stigmatizing albinos calls for serious in-depth introspection, both as a people of God and as a human rights minded nation, to design and pass bills that specifically provides legal protective measures to albinos.
We’re no stronger for victimizing and killing our fellows; we’re less so in our eyes, and least so, and most certainly worse, in the eyes of the Creator. Creation of a safe living environment is the goal here. And to achieve that, it is important to note that there has to be a great deal of meaningful sensitization to be made to our friends (or foes?) who believe in the efficacy of albino ritualism.
This is a big task. It is no work for Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare alone nor is it a private domain for Federation of Disability association of Malawi (FEDOMA and Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM). It is a task for any well-meaning Malawian; it is a task by us citizens for us.
Meanwhile, it should be made clear to the public at large that those to be found guilty of the abhorrent killings of albinos for rituals or other will be severely dealt with. To this end, special funds and resources have to be made available for such an undertaking. Better still, there can be created a distinct unit in the police system which shall be extra-ordinarily resourced to promptly deal with instances of attempted or actual killings of albinos.
To meaningfully achieve the above, the organizations that fight for the rights and welfare of albinos will have to make a standing arrangement to channel some of its resources this distinct police unit so as to beef up the human as well as material resources that may be lacking in our law enforcement system. There can also be organized functions specifically designed to collect funds for this honorable cause. The media, above and beyond, will have also to be encouraged to intensify and give special and in-depth coverage of news of albino-related victimizations.
It is well within the confines of logic that it is not only seriously preposterous but also insanely inhuman to regard ourselves as humans and regard albinos as being less so. Who defines ‘humanness’ apart from the Creator himself? How can a created being make a distinction about what is human and what is not about its fellow created being? The truth is: either we all—albino-victimizing ritualists and albinos—are human beings or no one is. In the circumstances, the irony is that the latter are even more human than the former.
It is of some significance, in the end, to note that whatever our color everyone is the extension of another. No human being is better than another; none more human than another; literally none more ritualworth than another. We all are—albino or what have you—one and the same thing before our Creator. We’re all human beings,…and if only we saw albinos humans they really are.

We Can Do Better On Maternal Health

LIFE—the single most invaluable God-given gift—doesn’t have to be constantly in needless avoidable danger. It simply doesn’t have to be. This is worrisomely doesn’t have to be more especially in times humanity endeavors to fulfil nature’s sacred call—procreation.

For instance, it is reported that mother earth lost 289,000 lives of women in 2013 alone due to pregnancy and childbirth related complications. These dear lives of our mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters could have not have been this needlessly lost were it the case that the governments, state organs, civil society organizations, and the donor community alike were willing enough to do something aimed at making improvements on maternal health.

Any well-meaning nation on earth understands that the progress of any society starts with a decent concern for the health of its people; and more so women. Women are a social fabric of a society: ignore them and you let a hell of problems loose. For if ever has been improvements in life in history the same has been a result of considerable effort from women.

So, it’s about time governments, political players, donors, and all interested parties were doubly proactive on maternal health by doubling both their commitment and resources on this. What exactly we need to see in this respect is a widening of the access to medical care during pregnancy and after childbirth. Additionally, there is also expected that there will be deployed enough skilled medical personnel to attend to pregnant women.

Our hospitals are fast becoming deathtraps for pregnant women. And that is contrary to the cherished expectations of a life as a mother in this 21st century world. The journey to motherhood has, since time immemorial, been a cherished one. Why should it have to change now? For what and on what grounds?

That’s why the story in The Nation of 3 February, 2015 of a woman at Edingeni giving birth without health workers conjures up images of a nation disrespecting motherhood. There was a woman, a good citizen for that matter, who having been civic-educated on the disadvantages of delivering without skilled health worker, goes to a public hospital to deliver. But alas she gets a cold shoulder. What a sorry irony! That woman’s story is sure one that is shared by a hundred or so pregnant and would-be pregnant women in our nation and one thing is for sure; there’s need for serious thinking and re-thinking on maternal health.

Yes, we are poor. But we are not that poor as to fail to afford to save a life that’s geared towards bringing a new one. Yes, we’re not that damned as to be incapable of appreciating the nobility of motherhood. Neither are we that naive as to pretend that all is well with the way public hospitals attend to pregnant women. That’s why we need as a nation to make the sacrifices where possible in this important area. There have to be available in all public hospitals quality maternal health services for appropriate and specialized care during pregnancy, labour, and delivery.

The point here isn’t that we aren’t doing anything; we’re, only that whatever we’re doing on this life-or-death aspect of life for women isn’t any adequate: more and a lot have to be done.

So, whatever the justifications from the authorities, the nation is well aware that something is amiss in our hospitals in the area of maternal health. It needs not be emphasized that the insolence from some quarters of the medical personnel is already a minus.

It is hoped that a vibrant health system that attends to pregnant women diligently, that offers specialized maternal health assistance empathetically, that respects the decency of women passionately, can, for at least a moment, save our nation from the negative publicity on maternal health disaster like the Edingeni case or many similar unreported and unrecorded others. Yes, we can do better on maternal health.