Security Alert: The dwindling Security Situation in Malawi

Car_windowburglaryYesterday, Capital Radio Malawi Posted the following on its Facebook Page:

#‎SECURITY‬‪#‎ALERT‬: Please be aware that there is an increase in armed robberies and home invasions within in the country more especially in the major cities of ‪#‎Lilongwe‬ and ‪#‎Blantyre‬. Please take the following precautionary measures to avoid failing ‪#‎victim‬ when ‪#‎driving‬:

1. Avoid driving at night; 2. Avoid driving within secluded ‪#‎streets‬; 3. Avoid intersections which are dark and will require you to stop for a long time; 4. Always lock your ‪#‎car‬ doors; 5. Always roll up your ‪#‎windows‬; 6. If you think a vehicle has been following you for some time please head to the nearest ‪#‎Police‬ station; 7. When going home advise people at home that you are about to arrive so that you don’t wait for long for them to open the gate for you; and 8. Before you stop for anyone please assess the situation and the area including the individual is stopping you.”

Many Malawians know this truly reflects the security situation in Malawi, and as can be seen, it’s a bad picture that essentially makes people hostage as a result of the actions of criminals. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, one of my friends has had his car attacked by young unruly boys in the streets in Blantyre, in broad daylight – who plucked off his car’s wipers;  a cousin had his house raided by thieves who promised to return; another cousin’s neighbour in Lilongwe was hacked to death, and another friend had thieves steal her car’s battery. These are just a few of the stories I know, but all this has happened within the last  3 years.

I’ve written several times on this blog about the security situation in Malawi (for example here in an article titled ‘The relationship between Human Safety and security (Physical security) and Economic Development’), but it’s disheartening to see a worsening of the situation rather than an improvement. It’s easy to look away, and say it’s not my problem, but I’ve heard quite a number of chilling tales, some relating to members of my own family for me just to keep quiet about it. The government in Malawi needs to do more to improve the security situation in Malawi. The donor block also needs to do more to help rectify the lapse in security by doubling its efforts in addressing the issue.

Two years ago, news emerged that Scottish police officers were to travel to Malawi to share their expertise on riot training and public disorder. Such schemes should be revived and extended to include general investment in policing. Specifically, the initiative may involve donors donating motorcycles (which are cheaper and easier to transport and run) to Malawi police Services in Blantyre and Lilongwe, allocating funds for police accommodation, improving the remuneration options of police officers and their families, and increased training(on tackling thuggery) provided by experienced police officers from donor countries. It may also involve encouraging the Malawi government to pass laws to make tougher penalties against these kinds of crimes, to erect more street lights in urban areas, and to install more CCTV networks covering the high risk areas. At the moment, all these are requirements which are urgent, and which in my view make better use of donor funds than direct budgetary support.

But ultimately, on a long-term basis, one of the main causes contributing to criminality is that young people have lost hope in Malawi.  I mean, just look at the comments on the Facebook post referred to above. There’s one who says:

“9. Leave the country if you can.”

To which another responded:

” 10. Don’t go to Jo’burg, you will face tougher robbers than here. smile emoticon

A nother reader said:

Invite the police commissioner for interview, afotokozere dziko what’s going on and what they are doing to protect the citizens before more lives and hard earned property is lost

And another who said:-

mwati kupita ku police???apolice ake omwewa apanga ubale ndi mbavawa …anyway thanks for ur tip

What do you say to someone who has done their form four (equivalent to year 11), or even JCE, but has nothing else to their name. There too few jobs around in Malawi for people with such low-level qualifications. In fact there are too few jobs for people with University degrees. If you have not been fortunate to get an education that can help you find suitable employment, then you are stuck. And for some of these people who are faced with this quagmire, the lack of education was never their own fault. For many, their parents didn’t have money to send them to expensive schools (how can people who are working as labourers, or are farmers in the villages – earning very little – afford the expensive prices quality education commands?). They had to work to help their parents from a young age, and this interfered with their education.

Secondary education is not free in Malawi, and there are too few scholarships for students from deprived families to attend good schools. One might argue that there are too few good schools in the rural areas. The standard of education across the country is poor, especially in government schools where teachers earn very low salaries, and sometimes go months without pay. But even for those who manage to go to secondary school, there are no guarantees that they will be able to continue into a vocational training of sorts thereafter, if they do not have the money to finance such a training.

As I write this article, I know many people in Malawi who are looking up to their family members in the UK or the US to help them in financing their education…

But what about those who do not have such relatives?

The government of Malawi needs to address this poisonous cycle which is hurting the country immeasurably. Many estemmed individuals and organisations have made this call to action, including College of Medicine Professor, Joseph-Mathew Mfutso-Bengo, who at an inagural lecture few months ago said

“Malawi’s position onthe Global peace Index is better than some of our neighbouring countries. Howerver if we are not careful, reports of corruption, theft, murder and other crimes can make our violence contentment costs to rise, scaring away investors.”

It’s easy to forget that in 2012, a little more than 3 years ago, the late Bingu Wa Mutharika was quoted in a statement that essentially charged the police to fend for themselves and not always look to the government…. Surely that couldn’t have had positive long-term effects. But we’ve gone past that now, the current DPP government promised during their pre-election campaign that they would learn from the mistakes of their past. Thus, the younger Mutharika must invest in creating more employment opportunities for young people, something I touched on in this article, titled “10 things President Peter Mutharika of Malawi can do to improve the lives of Malawians” and which is a long-running theme for this blog. It’s urgent, and needs to be addressed now. And while it’s commendable to see that the government will be investing in the fashion industry, more needs to be done in other areas, in particular those sectors that have a potential of employing large numbers of unskilled labour. The DPP government must not solely rely on the private sector or foreign investment to create employment, since Malawi’s economy is too small. They need to take charge, and give the economy a firm and dependable push.


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