Dictatorship at Immigration Dept, passport process centralized to Lilongwe, Kalumo firing officers by mouth

The passport processing system in the country has been centralized to Lilongwe office where Immigration Department boss Charles Kalumo works from with all institutional powers within the rank and file confined to him, Nyasatimes has learnt.

Imimigration Department boss: Kalumo

The development has seen passport processing offices in Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu paralyzed with Malawians, from different part of the country, seeking passport services having to travel to Lilongwe to access the services.

As we write, our team, for the past three days camped at passport office in Area 4 in Lilongwe where thousands of Malawians from different parts of the country having been, literally lodging, waiting to get hold of the passport document.

We encountered sad and diminished faces of Malawians, weary bodies of tiredness and boredom, voices of frustrations and anger at what they, in different descriptions, call the slow but steady sliding to abyss of a once vibrant department that could issue a passport at an affordable price with limited time.

Nsaname, palibe chilipo. Napanga apply mwezi watha. Ndimakhala ku Mzuzu. Nabwera kuno atandiwuza kuti ku Mzuzu sakupanga chilichonse. Ndinamwera after a three weeks koma ndikungokhala kuno. Chikuchitika ndi chani,” asked this lady identified as Elufe Banda.

Her sentiments are shared by several people we encountered and as we searched for an answer, on Monday this week we witnessed senior Immigration Officers, according to our sources, storm the Area 4 office seeking an audience with their boss, Mr Kalumo.

We spoke to one of the officers on condition of anonymity:

“We have a serious challenge of leadership at the department. From the time we moved from Techno-Brain to E-Tech System and also started this e-passport system, we found that all passport processing system have been moved to Lilongwe. Everything from registration, finger printing, payments, interviews to printing—just everything. We wondered why this is the case.

“Then we saw systematic firing of some strategic senior officers without clear explanations, some being fired just by word of mouth. We also wondered why. As I tell you, officers in Zomba, Blantyre and Mzuzu just loaf about. They go to work to do nothing and knock off yet we expect government to be paying them. We are wondering why.”

Moved by these concerns, some senior officers, our sources told us, sat down and sought an audience with their boss, Mr Kalumo.

However, we have gathered, Mr Kalumo allegedly deserted the meeting which forced the officers to storm the office of the Principal Secretary in Homeland Security Ministry responsible for administration Erica Maganga to share their concerns.

Speaking to journalists after meeting Maganga, a representative of the employees Charles Chisi said they are tired of what he called deep-seated maltreatment by the current boss, Mr Kalumo

Chisi said they want the leadership to be changed.

“We have put forward our concerns to the PS. We are demanding the firing of the director general. If the demand is not met, we are going to down tools.

“We initially wanted the DG fired by Friday this week but the PS has said we need to give her office more time to look into the issues with the right authorities. We have given her office 10 days to get back to us,” he said.

Chisi said the concerned Disc officers believe President Lazarus Chakwera will act on their grievances and fire their boss

He said they had told the PS during the meeting that officers at the department were being suspended without clear reasons and being sent on retirement before their designated time.

“This is often done verbally. That is not how things are supposed to be done in government. Some officers have been on suspension for over a year and they still do not know their fate,” Chisi said.

Information shared during the meeting indicated that over 40 officers were verbally suspended by the Dics leadership.

It is unclear if they are seeking legal redress in line with their claims that they did not commit any crime.

However, Chisi went further to accuse the Immigration leadership over the passport issuance crisis, saying it is not giving a chance to officers willing to help to do so.

Since January this year, Malawians have been struggling to access the travel document due to printing challenges.

For some weeks, the system was completely down, making it impossible for anyone to get a passport, before it got restored after Chakwera issued an ultimatum.

On Monday evening, Maganga refused to grant any interview, saying she wanted to go home and rest.

However, Homeland Security PS Steven Kayuni said Tuesday that he had been informed about the officers’ visit to the ministry. He indicated he was yet to receive a report from Maganga on the issue.

We made effort to speak to Kalumo to hear his story on the issue that have been raised by the officers but we failed to get a comment as his mobile kept declining calls.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson Gift Trapence has asked the authorities to quickly address the issue to prevent a potential strike at the Immigration Department.

“The immigration officers have raised serious issues, which tells us that the department is in a crisis that needs government’s attention.

“It goes on to show that the crisis has been there for some time and authorities have been neglecting the issues,” Trapence said.

 

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