Malawi Police Service (MPS) officials this week seemed proud of their efforts in identifying and dismissing from police training schools a total of 442 bogus recruits.
“We have managed to send back 361 people from our Limbe Police Training School, 53 from Mtakataka and 28 from Mlangeni in Ntcheu. These people were just seeking employment from MPS but they had no proper offer letters, others had junior certificates [instead of the mandatory Malawi School Certificate of Education] while others were medically unfit,” police spokesperson, Nicholas Gondwa, told the Daily Times.
Security in Malawi is a big problem at the moment. Quite often, thugs break into people’s homes at night and sometimes kill whoever they find therein. A few weeks ago, former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation television producer, Dexter Kanike, 48, was killed by armed robbers at his residence at Chirimba. Blantyre police Public Relations Officer, Elizabeth Divala told the media that a group of unknown thugs invaded Kanike’s house in the wee hours of 1 June.
“The criminals broke into his house and went straight to his room where they started demanding money,” she said. When Kanike said he had no money, they killed him before making away with his laptop and camera.
Not so long ago, Harry Wakeford, a South African tourist travelling through the continent with friends, was shot dead at a campsite in Karonga by men who made off with a money bag and expensive camera equipment.
Suzgo Richard Chinula, a Malawi Telecom Networks official, was killed by robbers at his house in Area 47 a few months ago. Examples of cases of violent robbery are endless.
With security levels so low, one would hope for the Malawi Police Service to raise its standards when recruiting new police staff, so that only the best are enlisted for the training schools. Instead, what we are seeing is a bwata-bwata-phulu casual approach to the recruitment process.
Police premises are supposed to be places for serious activities and utmost security. How come, then, were these ruffians welcomed when they presented themselves? By police’s own admission, these crooks had no proper offer letters, and yet they were welcomed anyway, to the extent that they were only evicted after a special exercise.
Questions abound: If every Jim and Jack can just walk into the police training school and present themselves without proper documentation and be welcomed, are we safe? Doesn’t the police have internal controls so that only those who have passed the interviews can be allowed to enter the gate of the police training school?
If the anomaly had happened at one training school it would have been understandable; but no, infiltrators went to all school, at Limbe in Blantyre, Mtakataka in Dedza and Mlangeni in Ntcheu.
Even as we speak, there is no guarantee that all those who have remained in those schools are truly there on merit. The police talk of their wishes to carry out a “verification exercise” and “an investigation” – words that indicate that they are still as clueless as the man in the street about how these gate-crashers joined the party.
In all likelihood, what has happened is that the ever-corrupt police failed to manage their own corruption and ended up being overwhelmed by the number of unqualified people the top brass tried to sneak in. If it were not for the ever-vigilant Malawians of goodwill who used social networks to expose the malpractice, the top brass could have managed to get away with the vice.
This is corruption, and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, despite itself being very corrupt – going by the way it is trying to play games with the Bakili Muluzi case – ought to investigate this.
The security of our country is not something to play with. It is disingenuous for the police top brass to use the institution for their own selfish gains.
Interestingly, President Peter Mutharika, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Police Service, has been mum over such a big recruitment scandal in an organization he is supposed to oversee. His silence comes in the wake of unverified media reports claiming that his party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), wanted to reward its supporters with police jobs. The president’s failure to demand decisive action on this matter lends credence to such reports.
Converting the police into DPP cadets would be a big mistake on President Mutharika’s part. The police serve Malawians of all types, regardless of region, tribe or political affiliation. It would be a serious violation of democracy tampering with the institution of the Malawi police, whose political neutrality is the core characteristic it needs to serve everyone impartially.
One can only hope, therefore, that the DPP was not trying to test the waters and went overboard, resulting in a hasty effort to undo the damage after a public outcry.
It would serve the nation well if the president took decisive action on this. Someone in the police needs to be held accountable. There is no way such a thing could have happened without the knowledge of the Inspector-General or those close to him. And if it indeed happened without his knowledge, then it calls into question his qualification for the job.
It is high time we learned to be accountable for our actions. We can’t just be letting such a mess go on without determining the root cause, or without holding someone responsible for it. The consequence of inaction is that tomorrow it will happen again, and perhaps the cheats will not even be booted out of the training schools. Our country would then be stuck with dimwits in police officer uniform.
- The article first appeared in Sunday Times newspaper of June 12, 2016