Turning to prison: The road to beautifying Malawi

It`s late afternoon in Zomba. The streets are as quiet as the grave yard. People have deserted them for homes. The giant Zomba plateau lies quiet and polite on the lithosols of the city.

Wastes are poorly disposed in liwonde

Wastes are poorly disposed in liwonde

Chagaluma: Law provide for commjunity sentences

Chagaluma: Law provide for commjunity sentences

From a distance one can see plastic bags lying and flying freely in the face of a once green city. A mature person who even has children of his own has deliberately decided just to throw them anyhow. Scientist have been warning us that these bags will destroy the soil and the beauty of this peaceful city.

Unfortunately, the dirty that has colonized Zomba has extended its rule country wide. It seems the whole country is getting dirtier every day. In the times of Dr. Kamuzu Banda this country used to be cleaner. But it seems the more freedom the country is getting, the more we are losing responsibility over our environment; the more we are dirtying it.

President Mutharika and the first lady have placed all their effort in making Malawi cleaner. Inspired by the success story of Rwanda in banning plastic bags, President Bingu Mutharika implemented a brilliant idea where he banned the use, sale, production, exportation and importation of thin (less than 60 microns)  plastic bags that are killing the country. But what happens? The bags are still being sold almost everywhere country wide. Nobody seems to notice.

We need to start thinking of other possible solutions towards the same. One of the ways I would suggest for public administrators, judges and magistrates is that we start involving convicted citizens more in cleaning up the cities, towns and institutions. Every time someone has been involved in a minor criminal offence in Malawi we usually rush to throw him or her into prison, apparently without a thought of issuing a community service order crossing our minds!

Why can`t we find better ways of dealing with people who have committed less serious crimes? If the courts of Malawi instead of sentencing people to 12 months in prison with hard labour, why can’t they just sentence them to perform community service for such number of hours as the court thinks fit?

If we were sentencing these citizens to community service, we would be able to send them into the streets of Zomba to be cleaning the city as many times as possible per day. With that in mind, the city would be better as compared to today. The blue plastic bags that have been flying around the Zomba flea market for over a month now would have been removed and Zomba would have been cleaner. Zomba city has so many prisoners. If she involved inmates more in cleaning the city, Zomba would have probably become the cleanest city in not just Malawi but in Africa.

Just imagine what would happen if the Liwonde town assembly had asked the service of these prisoners to remove the nasty dirt that embarrasses us each time we pass through Liwonde. Just along the main road in Liwonde, there is a heap of wastes dumped by our esteemed town assembly. What kind of leaders do that in the post modernism era? What are environmental officers in the region doing? Are they waiting for the president to make a directive? Let’s wake up and be responsible for our country.

Just imagine what would happen if the head teachers of Schools were asking the courts to send them prisoners. The schools would not have been infested with Malaria which is depleting medicine in the hospitals. The schools would not have been wasting more on casual laborers just to slash the glass.

Lawyer, Edward Chagalamuka argues that our laws permit the use of convicts to perform community service work. He states that our courts are at liberty to order convicts to perform community service. This, according to Chagalamuka, is open to offences whose sentences are not fixed by law and where the court intends to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year. Chagalamuka added that the system of imposing community service sentences was introduced in Malawi in 2000 following amendments to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.

He further argues that public institutions are free, upon following proper procedure, to call for services of inmates serving imprisonment terms.

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The Insider

The author seems to advance an argument without solid ground. The modern ideology behind imprisonment is not punishment or for the provision of labour but reformation. If the institutions vested with the responsibility to clean our cities have failed, it would be suicidal to turn to prison as this would only hardern prisoners thereby breeding more criminals – the vicious cycle. Let’s look at why prisons exist before coming up with confusionist ideas.


If I may ask, what is it that our prisoners really do when serving their terms of imprisonment with hard labour? Do they really do any hard labour? Bwanji osamawasesetsa, kuwalambulitsa etc mmatawuni mwathumu mudzioneka clean….

Lilongwe woman

Kodi zimenezi ma judge athuwa sazziganiza??? Anyapala akungowonga ndalama zathu za misokho ku Maula uko m’malo moti azigwira ntchito za chitukuko uku akuseva ma sentences awo….malawi sazatheka basi

Nick Leason
You could go even further and install a waste to energy plant – this would mean that you could then establish micro power networks across the country that would essentially be self sustaining from the locally generated waste. This has been successful in Pakistan and India and indeed in the UK. Those who are within the prison system or have been committed to community service could collect the existing waste and then act as sorters to ensure that all recyclable material is first removed (and then sold to help generate further income). Come on Malawi – time to start taking… Read more »
J. Phiri

As I was reading this article my mind thought of how clean our Limbe would be like only if we adopted this line of thinking…maganizo abwino Mr. Nyirongo

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