Paul Kanyama’s resignation as Inspector General (IG) of Police had all the theatrical elements attached to it. Even if it were not for his summoning a press briefing to announce his bowing out at a time Parliament was in the midst of debating his confirmation, Kanyama’s move was all the same going to qualify as dramatic considering that he had been on the much coveted rank in the Malawi Police Service (MPS) for only about three months.
Those working in the MPS will testify that apart from being a mark of recognition bestowed on a deserving officer, any promotion — including that from the basic rank of constable to sergeant — triggers immeasurable personal prestige. A sense of pride that, at least, one is going up the lengthy police service ladder.
But Kanyama chose to step down from the highest office in MPS, citing health reasons while the media speculated that the professional cop sensed danger, nay embarrassment, coming from Parliament as most opposition legislators were bent on rejecting his confirmation to continue lording over the men and women in uniform. In police parlance this could as well be some sort of “tactical withdrawal” on the part of Kanyama.
The danger, nay the embarrassment, for not approving Kanyama’s appointment, so we have been told, was that he does not have, among other several requirements, the academic credentials befitting one to occupy the office of IG. But whether the chief cop resigned on health grounds or sensed danger and pulled a fast one (to borrow the expression used by Nyasa Times) is a story that has already been fully debated. What, rather, should belabour us now is the debate on what, really, are the requisite “academic” credentials for one to competently hold the position of IG and where can one acquire them from.
As a starting point, it is imperative to understand what the MPS exists for. The core existence for the MPS as envisioned in the institution’s vision and mission statements is all about ensuring that Malawi is safe and secure. Of course, the mission statement goes into the specifics but, in summary, they all reflect two concepts: Safety and security.
Now, you do not just wake up one day and become a police officer. Currently, the Malawi Government, under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security, has police training schools at Limbe in Blantyre, Mtakataka in Dedza and Mlangeni in Ntcheu where recruits are groomed to become professionals in “creating a safe and secure Malawi”. Then there is the Police College in Zomba where officers undergo training for higher and more challenging positions in the service.
Unlike is the case elsewhere, the police training schools in Malawi do not offer any professional certificates. And, save for some ‘valueless’ Certificate of Attendance, the Police College in Zomba might be the only college in Malawi that does not offer diplomas let alone bachelors or masters degree certificates. Something is, surely, wrong here.
Look, as far as professional police training is concerned in Malawi, for one to reach the level of being promoted to any commanding position in the service (as was the case with Kanyama before he was appointed IG), they must at some point or the other be a student at the Police College in Zomba, the highest police institution in the country. In view of this scenario, one wonders what should really be the requisite “academic” credentials for Parliament to consider when confirming an appointee to the position of IG in a country where the only highest institution for training police officers does not offer strong and valuable papers.
It is true that currently there is a horde of graduates in the police service with bachelors or masters degrees tucked under their armpits but it is also true that these are not graduates who specialised in the profession of “creating a safe and secure Malawi”. They are graduates who, unfortunately, specialised in fields that have nothing to do with police science. And most of them, sad to say, are a bunch of frustrated souls who joined MPS after failing to secure employment in their respective fields of study.
Therefore, in as far as the situation stands now, almost everyone who works for MPS, Kanyama inclusive, is “educated” and a “graduate” because they all passed through the corridors of the same police training institutions that the country boasts of. The very same institutions that ensure one remains with miserable education credentials if they have chosen to be career cops.
There have been both formal and informal suggestions that for the MPS to reform, its departments should be headed by graduates. But this still begs the question: Which graduates? Those who graduated in education, accountancy, journalism or medicine but ended up finding their way into the MPS? Really? What has a paper in these fields got to do with security and safety matters?
It is an uncontestable fact that we must value academic credentials but it is also an uncontestable reality that such academic credentials should be those befitting the field one aspires to work in. If you ask those in the know, they will tell you that one of the highly regarded IGs to have ever headed MPS is the late Mac William Lunguzi but he, too, was a graduate of the very same police training institutions we have in the country.
Actually, so it is testified, it was Lunguzi (a ‘non-graduate’) who introduced the idea of recruiting graduates from other fields into the police service. But, maybe, where he failed was to moot the project for MPS to embark on the mission of producing bonafide police graduates.
And, maybe, it is high time that the Police College which is based in the country’s old capital city graduated into a full-fledged institution offering courses at bachelors and masters degree level so that those officers appointed to the office of IG should be saved from the danger, nay the embarrassment, of being rejected by Parliament on the grounds of education credentials.
But, for the time being, let any officer who has the experience, stamina and aptitude to inspire and motivate our men and women in uniform qualify to be crowned as IG. It is not safe for the nation to be changing IGs within a period of three months.
- The author once worked for the Malawi Police Service but has written this article in his personal capacity