“Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer” -Muhammad Ali
If there is one Inspector General of Police who came to Area 30 with pomp and ceremony it was Paul Kanyama.
Look, if Peter Mukhito was the ‘best IG ever’ in the books of the departed Big Kahuna, Paul Kanyama would certainly pass off as the ‘most talkative IG ever’. Sometime he could overshoot his mouth, dabbling in political stuff that certainly put him on the collision course with politicians on the opposite side of the political divide.
Right off the bat he made all the right noises about putting the underworld on notice that there is a new cop in town. The ‘honeymoon is over’ statement from Kanyama was timely.
Indeed there have been some brazen criminal acts that went right to the top of the food chain, as it were. Imagine, these societal misfits had the audacity of clambering over the Vice President’s well-fortified wall in Blantyre and invaded his wine cellar.
Lucky enough the Second Family was not in residence.
Saulos Chilima’s cabinet colleague Atupele Muluzi was not as lucky. The bad guys beat the security system and scared the hell out of the minister and his wife, Angela, right in their bedroom.
That tells you how security has gone to the dogs…quite literary. If these hoodlums can burrow through the security mesh of whole cabinet members, with their round-the-clock armed security, how safe is my mum in Area 36 or Chitawira who is guarded by only a club-carrying old man?
So Paul Kanyama’s tough talk was more than reassuring. Although he goes down as the shortest-serving IG in our history (even Mary Nangwale, Malawi first-female IG, served a bit longer), there have been a number of successes. Of course, there seems to have been an eerie unannounced return of that unofficial ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy championed by Bingu. Quite a few miscreants have been prematurely despatched back to their maker, thanks to Kanyama’s cops.
But, largely, either most of the bad guys did not hear Kanyama’s warning or they ignored him as one of those empty loudmouths for the brazen robberies continued unabated. They even reached the IG’s own doorsteps as one of his boys was killed in cold blood during a bank heist in Blantyre recently.
But all these were happening while Kanyama was not formally appointed for he needed a parliamentary nod before he became a substantive top cop.
And that parliamentary process, though briefly disrupted by the Parliament support staff industrial action, started in earnest this week.
But Kanyama seems to have pulled the rug right under the honourable folks in the China-built edifice in Lilongwe by announcing he was quitting the job he so celebrated only a few months ago.
The top cop cites ill-health, diabetes et al. He even volunteered some very private details about his health.
Of course, it is not a crime to fall ill. All of us, despite our station in life, fall ill once in a while. Did you think the ambulance that always makes the presidential convoy is for ‘in-transit’ ablution only? It is there to take care of the big man in case his heart starts behaving funny or his blood pressure suddenly starts acting up.
So the Muckraker cannot fault Kanyama that his health failed him. Unlike some people in public life who think falling sick is only for us, wanachis, at least Kanyama has been open, even needlessly disclosing some salient details about his sickness.
But, wait a minute, some of these age or life-style ailments do not come out of the blues. Once you hit half a century, no matter how fit or healthy you keep yourself, you always have to battle cardiac, BP or diabetes issues. Of course, the more privileged you are the more manageable these issues become.
So when he was being appointed last November, Kanyama should have had an idea of the state of his health. When he was being appointed IG, he was already deep in the management of the Malawi Police Service so his elevation to the top seat could not have added undue pressure on him.
So I would like to believe Kanyama was aware of his health status and he was convinced he was up to the task ahead of him.
Otherwise, if he knew he was a sick man, he would have told the appointing authority, “Thanks, but, no thanks, Your Excellency.”
In any case, unlike other public appointments whose bearers only hear about them from the radio, Kanyama was told prior to the announcement. I should know; I was there when on November 24, 2014, Peter Mutharika announced that Lot Dzonzi was resigning and Kanyama was being elevated to the top job.
Which opens up to speculations that Kanyama threw in the towel because of his education or lack there-of. That, I must say, would be very unfortunate. Kanyama is a career cop who rose through the ranks since joining the service in 1978. He served all Malawi’s five presidents and rose to the rank of Commissioner of Police, the highest professional rank in the service, the rest above that rank are political appointments.
Any Commissioner of Police qualifies to be considered for the position of IG, so Kanyama was duly qualified. MPs, for lack of a better adjective, could have been stupid to fail to confirm him because of the level of his formal education.
I recall it was MacWilliam Lunguzi who started recognising formal education as a basis for promotion, even recruitment. That is why he had the likes of Lot Dzonzi and Gustave Kaliwo as his blue-eyed boys.
But still Lunguzi never ignored professionalism, that is why people like Kanyama were still rising up the rungs in the services regardless of their humble formal education.
Besides, I have spoken to quite a few officers who have worked under Kanyama. Almost all attest to Kanyama’s professionalism. He is a lion in the service, one of them actually said.
So why then did Paul Kanyama quit his seat on that Second Floor at Area 30?
Perhaps the opposition-dominated Parliament could have really rejected his appointment based on his humble educational qualifications. That could have been sad for there has to be a critical balance between formal education and track record as a professional cop.
But let us, for the sake of argument, accept that the top cop indeed resigned due to ill-health. What does that say about how we make our appointments? I would have thought background checks, which includes using Nicholas Dausi’s sleuths to check the candidate’s person, and actual consultations are key.
I would imagine my good friend Lot’s departure from Area 30 could have been delayed as government was hunting for the right replacement. If Kanyama was honestly assessed, both clandestinely and directly, his health situation could have triggered some red lights. In any case, Kanyama was not desperate for a job; the guy was already due for retirement for goodness’ sake!
Kanyama personally admits he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008, way before he even became Deputy IG. He actually discloses that his condition started deteriorating by October last year.
So by the time he was being appointed in November he could have known how he was coping with the condition. In any case his doctors could have advised him whether or not it was safe for him to accept such a “demanding and stressful job”, as he himself pits it.
So who has goofed in this yet another ‘mis-appointment’?
Why are we always fumbling these appointments? The other day we made my good president cartoon himself by appointing more heads than necessary to some boards.
Now here we are embarrassing the old man by making him appoint a sick man to a sensitive, demanding and stressful job.
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